Michael Dodd Communications http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com Become An Inspirational Communicator Mon, 18 Nov 2019 17:26:55 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Be Prepared For Hard And Soft Questions http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/be-prepared-for-hard-and-soft-questions/ Mon, 18 Nov 2019 17:26:55 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4941 You don’t have to be a prince accused of doing very bad things to discover that in any challenging situation you need to be ready for a range of different types of questions.
More on Prince Andrew and the art of kamikaze-style interview responses later….

But anyone facing media interviews – or other forms of professional questioning from job interviews to official inquiries – should be prepared for BOTH hard questions and soft ones.
Astute followers of this column may be familiar with the term “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questioning. 



This originated in the hard-bitten world of Australian political journalism from where I hail.
However it’s not just “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions which bring some badly-prepared, under-prepared or under-trained accident-prone interviewees unstuck.
When readying yourself for a media interview or other questioning, you also have to ensure you don’t dig a hole for yourself on softer inquiries which may seem more like “tickle-on-the-tummy” questions.
These could be characterised, not by blowtorches, but by tickle sticks – the kind of soft laughter-instigating props wielded by the dearly departed comedian Ken Dodd.


In “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” I make the point that soft questions can sometimes trip people up.
This happened, for example, when the law-bending U.S. President Richard Nixon was famously being interviewed about the Watergate corruption scandal by Britain’s charming David Frost.


In my book, I describe David Frost as an interviewer who was often “more a gentle tickler than a blowtorcher”.
And it was a less than forceful Frost question which prompted one of the most memorable, damaging and self-incriminating answers of all – though Prince Andrew has now provided tough competition.
It was a remarkably gentle question which led to Richard Nixon giving his infamous answer: “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
Next time you’re questioned professionally, make sure you’re ready for the both the blowtorch and the tickle stick.


It was splendid to be reminded of the comedian who used to be on the safe end of the tickle stick during my latest training mission to Ken Dodd’s home city of Liverpool in England’s north-west.
Here Ken Dodd is immortalised on Liverpool’s Lime Street Station – with his tickle stick helpfully being pointed out by another passing Dodd who was in town to run “Your Message In 60 Seconds” and “Give Great Answers To Tough Questions.”


The tough question for the Dodd on the left is: “Based on Ken Dodd’s distinctive looks, isn’t it true that you must be related to him?”


But perhaps more significantly than his (horror) movie star looks which was the source of much of his comedy, Ken Dodd was an entertaining interviewee who generally made sure he was well prepared for his questioners and the wider audience beyond.
In this video he’s being interviewed about his tickling stick – and making a couple of serious points about comedy – with a few subtly amusing lines thrown in along the way.



Here he is telling stories from his life – including the time he got the Queen moving in her seat (though Prince Andrew has probably managed to get the Queen moving in her seat a different way in of late).




Ken Dodd had the virtue of taking his work seriously, but without taking himself too seriously.
He once claimed that his comedy act was very educational, providing as evidence: “I heard a man leaving the other night, saying: ‘Well that taught me a lesson’.”
Whether or not the Ken Dodd-style of old-fashioned comedy appeals to you, he went into interviews armed with plenty on his agenda that he could say if the opportunity arose.
In media training sessions, we make sure you develop your own well-thought out agenda ahead of any encounter with a journalist.
This ensures that you have a range of well-tested and well-worded useful things to say on any topic likely to be raised.
Media training can be done one-to-one – in person or over the phone – or in small groups.
Or when a larger team needs to communicate more inspriationally – with journalists, prospects, customers, officials and others – you can book one of the conference keynotes or master classes set out here:


Alas it’s now too late for all this potential guidance to help Prince Andrew in his latest on camera performance.
When the editor of the Royal Central website, Charlie Proctor, assessed the prince’s BBC interview responses to allegations relating to his friendship with the convicted sex offender Geoffrey Epstein, he was perhaps using masterly understatement.
Mr Proctor tweeted: “I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad.”
You can work out whether this assessment is too soft by watching the whole thing on BBC’s Newsnight special at:


It’s hard to know where to start in advising readers on how to avoid such a media catastrophe.
But if you ever find yourself in a position where a major broadcaster is prepared to devote an entire programme to your responses to allegations against you, I suggest you:

  • Do a comprehensive media training test interview beforehand and get your colleagues to critique it before deciding whether it’s wise to go ahead with a real interview


  • Use the test interview to help ensure you learn to avoid saying things like “That is what I would describe as me in that photo” and worse


  • Go into the interview with a big headline message which, while defending what is defensible, admits how sorry you are for anything relevant that you’ve done wrong and express profound regret about harm to any victims who may have been adversely affected by what you’ve done – backed up by practical action steps to seek to make up for the wrongs


  • Never seek to justify the totally indefensible by saying things like the friendship with a human trafficker helped you meet “useful” people


  • Don’t seek to explain staying for days in a house owned by a convicted sex offender, saying you were “too honourable” and it would have been “chicken” to have phoned to make your point


  • Avoid questionable use of euphemism, such as describing the behaviour of a convicted sex offender as merely “unbecoming”


  • While sticking to exact truths, beware of lines that are destined to be ridiculed – such as that you couldn’t possibly have done what you’re accused of because you have “weird” recollections of being at a Pizza Express on the same day.

However much you admire comedians – like Ken Dodd in the past or those of the present day – don’t go out of your way to give them material that will run and run and run.
Comedians with and without tickle sticks are quite capable of coming up with their own material without generous gifts from you.

Ensure Your Message Survives The Test Of Time http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/ensure-your-message-survives-the-test-of-time/ Tue, 05 Nov 2019 16:25:53 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4935 Those who follow British politics will be familiar with a much-repeated, much-quoted line from Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he promised – “do or die” – to take the country out of the European Union by 31 October 2019.
So welcome to November 2019!
Astute observers will have spotted there are currently still 28 member nations in the European Union, including er…. the United Kingdom.
And Boris Johnson remains alive and well – even though his credibility has taken a savage blow.

The Prime Minister may have been through a political near-death experience as his Halloween Brexit deadline came and went.
Nonetheless getting Britain out of the EU by the end of October proved to be beyond Boris Johnson’s reserves of positivity, energy and charisma.
With the outgoing British parliament ahead of the forthcoming general election having more pro-remain MPs than pro-Brexit ones, getting the UK to honour its referendum result of 2016 and extract the country from the EU hasn’t yet proven possible.
Nonetheless amidst all his political the difficulties, the biggest challenge afflicting Boris Johnson’s credibility was one he generated for himself.
The ultimate problem for his credibility were those colourful words he used to express his determination for leaving the EU ahead of the 31 October deadline.
His now infamous “do or die” pledge – originally made while campaigning to win the Conservative Party leadership ahead of becoming Prime Minister – has come back to haunt him since the scary night of Halloween 2019.




Boris Johnson is a student of great philosophers of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.
But when it came to his ill-fated “do or die” pledge, he would have been better to have studied the relatively more recent work of the less philosophical dancer/singer/actor Fred Astaire.



In the musical comedy “Follow the Fleet”, Fred Astaire sang a song which contained a prophetic warning to Boris Johnson worthy of Ancient Greece’s Delphic oracle.



In the film’s introductory number – “We Saw The Sea” – Fred sings:
“We joined the navy to do or die
But we didn’t do, and we didn’t die”.
Uncannily it proved precisely the same for “do or die Boris”.
He didn’t do, and he didn’t die.
If, like me, you missed Fred Astaire’s song when it was released in 1936, he’ll sing it again for you here:


And if you missed Boris Johnson’s “do or die” pledge you can check that out here:



But while Fred was able to smile while neither doing nor dying, it’s been more difficult for Boris.
By not doing and not dying, Boris Johnson has had to face stratospheric levels of ridicule.
And he’s had the same result with his other infamous declaration.
This is the one where he said he’d rather “die in a ditch” than officially write to the European Union to seek an extension of the UK’s membership while it struggled to work out how to leave.
You can remind yourself of this unwise pronouncement here:


Alas as required by parliament, Boris Johnson has now sought an extension rather than die in a ditch.
The communications lesson for us all is clear.
When you’re making any announcement or promise regarding that unpredictable territory known as the future, you need to be ever-so-careful about how you word it.
It’s something I work on with individuals and groups when helping prepare them for their presentations, media interviews and other situations where they need to say important things in the spotlight – including great business answers to tough Brexit questions!
The fundamental rule is, don’t allow yourself to become a “hostage to fortune”.
So when you announce things about future intentions, word them in such a way that you’re eliminating the prospect of being caught out by unexpected twists and turns.
And be ready for all the questions you may face, which is why this book has been published:

If Boris Johnson had pledged that he’d “do everything humanly possible” to get the UK out of the European Union by 31 October – and he certainly threw himself into that challenge – then his credibility would have ended up in a much better place.
If he’d promised that he would only seek an extension to the UK’s membership of the EU “as an absolute last resort”, his credibility would have remained stronger.
Like the oracle of Delphi, we cannot reliably predict what’s going to happen.



But we can be careful to word pronouncements about the future in a way that won’t make us look silly – or untrustworthy – or both.
Communications training to test out you – and your wording –  in advance will help make you and your message as bombproof as possible.
If you’d like to ensure that your credibility, and your organisation’s credibility, doesn’t die in a ditch, avoid bumbling your way into a “do or die” situation.
Media training to help bomb-proof you and your team’s media interview technique can be checked out here:

Presentation training to make sure you get those crucial wordings right is available here:
Programmes to ensure key members of your team are communications-ready for a wide range of challenges are set out here:
And if you’d like vital communications insights and techniques spread in an entertaining fashion at your conference, check out the options here: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/speaking-at-your-event/


As a professional speaker, I’ve had the privilege of speaking in some extraordinary places.
One particularly memorable one was at a hotel conference centre overlooking the glorious waters of Scotland’s Loch Ness.


When the view is magnificent, the challenge for the speaker is to work smarter than ever to keep the audience so enchanted by your topic that it prevents their minds wandering off as they gaze out the windows.
In the case of Loch Ness, I had the additional potential distraction of audience members thinking that – at any moment – they might see the Loch Ness monster rise out of the mysterious waters.



I thought there could be no worse way to be upstaged – especially after I came face to face with the monster himself on the banks of Loch Ness!


But I have now faced an even bigger challenge: speaking amidst the splendours of the Brockholes nature reserve in Lancashire.


The conference centre, just outside Preston in northern England, is set amidst a stunning nature reserve.


And there isn’t a lurking a monster hidden in the stillness of its waters as far as I could tell.
What Brockholes does have is an abundance of ducks, herons, egrets and other birds constantly wading, paddling, flying and fishing amongst the reeds.



While I was there helping an audience of senior teachers at their conference to prepare for media interviews, the challenge was to keep them focused on the task at hand without being distracted by the birdlife.
Fortunately, by testing out volunteers with “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions in mock interviews, it did concentrate their minds effectively on becoming as media bombproof as possible.
Of course, one of the aspirations for those facing tough media questions is to make it SEEM effortless – even if you’re working hard to give great answers and avoid making yourself a “do or die” hostage to fortune.
So the majestic white swans of Brockholes sailing past the large conference room windows provide a role model for all.



As the swans glided across the water, they made it seem effortless because – from above the waterline – you can’t see how hard they’re paddling underneath.
So be like the swan whenever you’re facing tough questions.
If you plan, prepare and practice in the right way in advance you, too, can glide through the experience while making it appear effortless.
And if your preparation involves working out carefully, precisely and safely the wording of any statements about the future, then there’s no need for your credibility to die in a ditch!
Keep smiling,

Are You Ready To Be A Target??? http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/are-you-ready-to-be-a-target/ Mon, 14 Oct 2019 15:46:09 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4930 You don’t have to be a politician under fire to face tough questions.

People in business – especially those in leadership positions – get so many tough questions thrown at them these days they can feel as though they’re walking targets. 

Alas, whether you’re at the top of a whole organisation or in charge of a department or section within it, being targeted by questioners tends to go with the territory.



Getting tough questions from those who are on your own team, among others, is becoming such a phenomenon that some leadership experts have spotted the prevalence of it. 

One such expert, leadership speaker Mark Fritz – who posts daily thoughts to help guide those in the business world – warns emphatically: “Leaders become targets”.


And to underline the message, Mark’s cartoonist has illustrated the point with this graphic picture, which he’s kindly allowed to be reproduced here.



Does the image of darts and arrows – in the form of tough questions flying in the direction of the leader – look or feel familiar?

And at a time when the internet makes it easier for your questioners to come up with material – accurate and otherwise – to fuel their questions, does it seem that being a leader is harder than it might once have been?

The good news is that being able to capitalise on the tough questions thrown at you with great answers is a learnable skill.


You can learn how to plan, prepare and practice for tough questions fired at you from around the boardroom, from the shop floor or from the media – or from anywhere else that leaders are targeted.

It also helps if you can keep calm inside while under fire – however volatile, personal or unsettling the questions are.

One tip is to ensure that you don’t take questions too personally.

In this we can all learn from a high profile misstep by a targeted leader called Boris…



The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been the target of a highly emotional series of comments and questions from angry opposition Members of Parliament as the politics of Britain’s exit from the European Union become ever-more volatile.

Mr Johnson has been targeted for his provocative use of the word “surrender” to describe what he believes some British MPs are guilty of when considering certain proposals over Brexit advocated by the European Union.

Amidst the tirades directed at him about his alleged use of inflammatory language was one from Labour MP Paula Sherriff which contained a reference to the murdered MP, Jo Cox, though she wasn’t specifically named amidst the onslaught.

Boris Johnson’s initial response to the tirade contained the provocative word “humbug” – defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as “dishonest talk, writing, or behaviour that is intended to deceive”.

This led to claims that the Prime Minister was dismissing abuse and death threat fears experienced by female MPs in particular.

You can re-live the exchange – including a long intervention by the Speaker of the House of Commons as he attempted to calm MPs – in this video.



The mistake Boris Johnson made was at the very start of his answer where he used the pejorative term “humbug” to dismiss everything that had been thrown at him.

Often when a string of emotive questions and comments are flying towards you, it will contain a mixture of points – some of which might be considered more reasonable than others and some which are often more emotionally-charged than others.

So to deal effectively with a multi-pronged tirade of this nature requires a more careful response than a blanket rejection of everything.

In this case, the immediate response really needed to allow for the fact that the tirade had made a veiled reference to concerns about security for female MPs following the murder of the MP Jo Cox. 

A leader can’t really afford to be dismissive of such serious fears and it was dangerous to lump such concerns in with the other aspects of the multi-faceted tirade.

A safer headline opener for a leader in such circumstances would have been along the lines: “I appreciate the questioner’s concern about the safety of MPs going about their business as Jo Cox was when she was tragically murdered, but I can’t agree with everything that’s just been said.”

The art is to deal with the emotion that is being hurled towards you, by talking initially to the human heart not the head – and only then to move on to convey messages that appeal more directly to the logical side of the brain.

And a bit of good humour, which Boris Johnson is a master at on a good day, can help keep things under control at the start if it’s deployed appropriately.

Boris Johnson did later explain that his response was part of a misunderstanding about some details of what the questioner had said – and he even came close to apologising by his standards.

“I can certainly say sorry for the misunderstanding,” he said afterwards, “but my intention was to refuse to be crowded out from using the word ‘surrender’ to describe the Surrender Act.” 

(“Surrender Act” is Boris Johnson’s code for proposals which he maintains rob Britain of some of its sovereignty.)


So the challenge for you when targeted by a barrage of questions is to make sure your instant overall response doesn’t effectively invite more darts of outrage to fly in your direction.

There’s further guidance for Boris Johnson – and anyone else who needs to give great answers while being targeted – in a book called “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work” published by Wiley.

The paperback version and the talking book option – read to you in an enlighteningly soothing Australian accent – are here: 


You can read the first chapter free online at:


Key parts of the content of the book can also be conveyed at conferences – such as this fantastically positive event on raising visibility, convened by the Women Leaders Association at the sumptuous London Art House.



You can have your answers critiqued in front of colleagues as we work on improving them if you’re super-courageous – as was this heroic chief executive pictured below.


If you look closely at this picture near the top you may perceive that the volunteer has actually shattered the glass ceiling with her enhanced great answer!

Alternatively you can learn to give great answers in one-to-one sessions – face-to-face or on the phone.

And for those who want to put the golden formulae for answering tough questions into practice at conferences, in masterclasses or in cosy one-to-one sessions, there’s more information at:


Remember the start of your great answer is often crucial.

The better your initial response to a tough question, the less you’ll be making yourself available for constant target practice after the first missile is fired at you.

And the good news is that you can book “Great Answers To Tough Questions” sessions on either side of the English Channel and beyond.



In the past few weeks, Paris has been a favoured destination for great answers sessions.


And it’s been splendid to glide over to Paris from London on the smooth, rapid and (relative to the jet and car-plus-boat options) environmentally-friendly Eurostar.


When you know the golden formulae for giving great answers – and you plan, prepare and practice for using them in communications-boosting sessions – your answers can become as smooth and easy as the Eurostar gliding through the Channel Tunnel.

Nevertheless, as Mark Fritz warns, leaders will still become targets.

But it’s better to give great answers to help ensure you’re a smaller target than give atrocious answers and turn yourself into a bigger one!

Keep smiling,


P.S. You can sign up for the free weekly emailed thoughts from leadership guru, Mark Fritz, at:

Macron Message Mastery http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/macron-message-mastery/ Tue, 27 Aug 2019 17:41:00 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4923 When it comes to utilising the power of brilliant communication, France’s President Macron has commendably been showing the way.
This comes amidst the flames and ashes of tragic circumstances for South America and for the entire planet.
Emmanuel Macron has focused increased global attention in a masterly manner – and prompted action inside and outside Brazil in various ways – on the largely human-ignited tragedy of the flaming Amazon rainforests.



The president achieved this by effectively conveying a powerful, urgent, cleverly-crafted message – to underline the importance of taking urgent action for the sake of the whole world.
Much has been said by many on what appears to be the largely deliberate outbreak of fires engulfing much of South America.
There’s an enormous reservoir of understandable international goodwill towards the Amazon rain forest upon which Emmanuel Macron has been able to draw.
This extends from those for whom the Amazon enjoys a favoured place in their heart – even though they’re yet to experience it…
… and it embraces all those who live in and around the Amazon…



… as well as those who’ve had the immense privilege of being temporarily enmeshed in the splendour of the rainforest, such as the intrepid Amazonian explorer pictured in happier Brazilian days below, inland from Rio de Janiero.

It was President Macron’s breakthrough message – originally encapsulated in single carefully-worded tweet – that did much to propel action at an international level.
“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest – the lungs which produces 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire,” he tweeted.
This dramatic central message has been encapsulated in all President Macron’s various communications on the issue.



Other world leaders – from Boris Johnson to Angela Merkel – were subsequently quick to support the cause.


So, too, were big names from the non-political world such as Christiano Ronaldo….


…And Madonna



Even the alleged arch environmental villain, Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro – held by environmentalists to have been encouraging farmers to start the fires – was grudgingly moved to marginally shift position and send in Brazilian troops to help tackle the multitudinous blazes.



President Macron’s simple analogies involving “our house” and “the lungs” are founded on a powerful combination of both truth-based rationality and emotion.
Another prominent president – who’s better known for his tweets, though less so for his enthusiasm towards environmental protection and tackling climate change – often gets attention through pure emotion.
But I suspect many, including even some of his slightly more cerebral supporters, might agree that his balancing between rationality and emotion isn’t always evident in his tweets.
When I’m working with clients to help them formulate the right message for a situation, I stress that it’s vital to get the balance between rationality and emotion exactly right.

Here’s a free purple-coloured extract from the book “Great Answers To Tough Questions” which explains it – with the help of a diagram of a train…
“Excellent communication involves a balance between facts and emotion.
If it’s all factual, your content could be seen as too dry and dull.
If it’s all emotional, your content could be seen as hysterical and out-of-control.
You can think of a great message as being like a train speeding along the tracks towards its destination.
The tracks guide the direction of the train’s journey.
They represent the factual underpinning of the message.
We can regard this as the GUIDANCE element.
But the train needs some kind of energy to allow it to move.
This energy – diesel, electricity or steam – allows the train to progress. The energy represents the emotional content of the message.
We can regard this as the PUSH element.
The train won’t get anywhere without both elements – tracks and energy.
Your message won’t get anywhere without both elements – GUIDANCE and PUSH.
This allows you to satisfy both minds and hearts!”



President Macron’s tweet provides a powerful effective example of this.
The whole of Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work, and more than 50 reviews (thanks reviewers!), is available in the UK here:



And it’s is available around the world – in paperback, kindle, talking book, CD and MP3 form – with more reviews (more thanks reviewers!) here:


Working with you to determine your central message – and how to bring it to life – form an essential part of one-to-one and group sessions on media training.
And message formulation is also a vital part of one-to-one and group sessions on Presenting With Confidence, Impact and Pizzazz:
Helping audiences know how to determine their central messages are also woven into communication-boosting keynotes at your conference.
Conference keynotes can also include showing your audience the techniques used by specific high profile communicators.
This helps your audience identify that which is effective about what the star communicators do – and what’s not – when studying what they do in the spotlight.
Before the keynote we can select which are the most appropriate high profile performers for your audience to look at.
In the field of business that could focus on the media skills of Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson.



Or in the field of international affairs a keynote could even focus on the communications skills of Emmanuel Macron himself.


Boost Your Communications While Studying Boris Johnson?… You Can’t Be Serious! http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/boost-your-communications-while-studying-boris-johnson-you-cant-be-serious/ Wed, 07 Aug 2019 15:26:51 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4915 Whether you love him or hate him, new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has one particular undeniable talent.

OK, it’s not the talent to always be seen with the right people –  as demonstrated here. 

Everyone makes mistakes!

But the undeniable talent Boris Johnson has is the ability to divide the human race between those who love him and those who don’t.

In Britain, they regard this as having what’s known as a “Marmite” tendency.

This is named after a terrible-tasting dark brown substance which some love to spread on their toast – and some don’t.



It’s not to be confused with a wonderful-tasting dark brown substance, which some people in Australia and beyond, love to spread on their toast and some don’t, known “Vegemite”.



But that’s another story.

One of the reasons Boris Johnson splits public opinion – almost in a way that separates Marmite fans from Vegemite fans – is because when it comes to the Boris Johnson communications approach there is a Good Boris and a Bad Boris.

I’m referring here exclusively about communications skills – not about Boris Johnson’s politics which is far more dangerous territory that I won’t be entering.

But I’m so adamant that there’s much we can learn from both Good Boris and from Bad Boris that I’m offering some new communications-boosting speaker sessions for conferences, company away days and business leaders’ groups.

More on these later, but first let’s have a look at Good Boris.



And let’s have a look at and Bad Boris.



Both Good Boris and Bad Boris feature in this compilation put to air as he was about to take up residence at 10 Downing Street.



Some of the features of the Good Boris communications approach here include his ability to:

+ Grab and hold attention

+ Convey simple clear messages

+ Deploy visual aids to colourfully illustrate his arguments – in a way that’s often far more effective than Powerpoint slides

+ Use words – even fancier ones than I normally recommend – with high impact (Note the reference to “Great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies” which transmits a certain feeling – even to those who don’t daily use the word “protoplasmic”).

But you may have noticed some features of the Bad Boris communications approach are also on display in the video.

And if I were Boris Johnson’s secret communications advisor – which I stress I am not, despite the above photo – here are some of the Bad Boris tendencies I’d be tactfully suggesting he, and you, adopt:

+ Check out in advance everything you say and ensure you only utter exact truths

+ Deal with tough questions honestly, while conveying a positive message, whenever they’re thrown at you

+ Never lose your cool when asked a question in public (So avoid Bad Boris’s use of that informal expression which seemed to include the words “Get” and “Stuffed” in close proximity)

You may have even noticed Good Boris and Bad Boris appearing together at the point one demonstrably untrue statement was made.

This is when he said it would be impossible for him to become Prime Minister – something which he and recent history have proven to be false.

But his contention – untrue though it proved – was colourfully illustrated with memorable images involving Boris being reincarnated as an olive and being decapitated by a flying Frisbee. 

Good Boris and Bad Boris also appear together in the speech he made as the Mayor of London in Beijing in 2008 at the time of the handover of the Olympic Flag to symbolise the fact that the 2012 games would next be held in his city.

Good Boris excelled in the fact that he was (perhaps uncharacteristically) extremely careful and diplomatic in ensuring that he praised his Chinese hosts for their amazing Olympic organising.

So he made sure he didn’t actually contend that the London Olympics would be superior to the Beijing Olympics while still indicating it would be a pretty amazing effort (which indeed it proved to be).

Good Boris also demonstrated his ability to say things to his audience which makes them feel fantastic.

In addition he showed his ability to dig out colourful historic facts to bring humour, goodwill and joy (Note the stirring reference to the London Police team winning the tug of war gold medal in the 1908 Olympics).

But on the Good Boris/Bad Boris borderline he used hyperbole to arguably overstate the glorious British role in developing sports – even though it was to very amusing effect as you can see in this video.



And Good Boris/Bad Boris possibly even went as far as actual historical distortion – such as his amusing but questionable claim that the table tennis-like game “whiff-whaff” was invented by the English ahead of the game “ping pong”.

This has been hotly disputed.

If you want to get to the bottom of the historical truth, take a look at the article here in Boris Johnson’s old newspaper, The Telegraph, where he was once a correspondent.

This story focused on the ping-pong controversy immediately after Mr Johnson started it.

Boris Johnson in whiff-whaff ping-pong row

You can check out the Ping-Pong/Whiff-Waff story at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/london-mayor-election/mayor-of-london/2666041/Boris-Johnson-in-whiff-whaff-ping-pong-row.html

When it comes to preparing the amusing part of your next speech (if that’s appropriate), be aware that more careful wording on Bad Boris’s part could have used the same material in such a way – deploying useful journalistic words like “allegedly” – so that it could have been both amusing AND accurate.

Of course, the aim of my Boris-focused communications-boosting speaker sessions is to help audience members spot and – where appropriate – try out things they pick up from Good Boris, while avoiding the pitfalls of Bad Boris.

Ultimately the aim is to draw upon the pluses of Boris Johnson’s communications approach – and those of other high profile communicators who would sometimes also be featured – while helping audience members become an even more effective version of themselves!



So the following Michael Dodd Communications speaker sessions are now available – for conferences, away days, business leaders’ groups and other gatherings…

+ WHAT COMMUNICATING THE BORIS JOHNSON WAY IS ALL ABOUT: Identify what communicators can learn and what they should avoid based on Good Boris and Bad Boris performances before and after he hit 10 Downing Street. 

+ LESSONS FROM THE BORIS JOHNSON-DONALD TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS APPROACH: What we can learn and what to avoid as communicators – based on the Boris Johnson and Donald Trump methods of conveying their message.

+ COMMUNICATIONS LESSONS FROM ASSORTED POLITICAL LEADERS: What we can learn and what we should avoid by looking at the good, the bad and the (allegedly) mad… from controversial leaders like Boris Johnson, Tony Blair, Barrack Obama and beyond.

+ BOOSTING YOUR BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS: Master class for experiential learners in business leaders’ groups and companies keen to pick up techniques from the best of high profile communicators in recent times – from Steve Jobs to Dame Anita Roddick to Sir Richard Branson… and from Boris Johnson to Barrack Obama to Swedish teenage environmentalist, Greta Thunberg.



Every speaker session is tailored specifically to your audience, with the help of pre-session forms to sample of audience members’ preferences and insightful briefings from speaker bookers. 

The aim is always to focus on high profile performers that are most relevant for your audience.

This is so everyone learns what to pick up on – and what to avoid – while refining their own communications approach.

Comments, questions and telephone discussions on 44 (0) 7944 952835 on any of these offerings are welcome.



Most of the speaker sessions I run are for specific audiences at conferences and other company events, and are – as a result – not open to the wider public.

But there is one coming up which is open to the public – especially for females in or entering the business world.

This is for those who would like to raise their profile in the workplace.
I’m delighted to be working with female professionals in London to help them do exactly that on Tuesday 24 September 2019 at a conference organised by the Women Leaders Association (The WLA).
I’ll be working alongside the WLA Founder and Executive Coach, Sandra Green, to help participants elevate their visibility make a bigger impact.



Sandra will be speaking about why – and exactly how – women need to raise their visibility…helping them take on some of the challenges that sometimes hold them back.

I’ll be running two workshops at the event which is at the delightful London Art House in Islington.



My first session is “YOUR MESSAGE IN 60 SECONDS” – helping delegates refine their content, structure and delivery style to make a bigger impact at times when you need to introduce yourself at meetings – and other situations where you need to make a powerful point in a short space of time.

This will help delegates to give more impressive responses to nightmare questions from customers, prospects, staff, journalists, financiers, officials and members of their own team… and make a stronger impact along the way.

Delegates will also get the chance to hear the inspirational story of Anna Delvecchio, the Head of New Business Development at the infrastructure support service company, Amey, and get her tips on how to raise your visibility inside and outside your organisation.


If you’d like to join Sandra, Anna and me to help boost your workplace visibility, you can find further details and book your ticket here: 
Whether you are – or are not – one of those admirers of Boris Johnson’s communications style, I can give you a personal assurance that neither Good Boris nor Bad Boris is likely to be there!

But do let me know if you would like to be.

Media Lessons From The Sporting Bonanza http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/media-lessons-from-the-sporting-bonanza/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 19:20:20 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4908 At a time when tennis, cricket – and even the surging sport of netball! – are bombarding our TV screens, there’s much to harvest in the way of communications lessons.

These lessons come from the bonanza of post-match interviews with which we’re “blessed” after every big match.

As a result, it’s becoming ever-clearer that you can be an on-field loser but still come out as a media winner!



Alas the reverse is also true.

You can perform well in the match but end up as a media loser!

Whether you emerge as a winner or loser in media interviews – and when communicating in any situation in sport, business or some other field – is entirely down to you.

If you train for it, and you have the right attitude, you can potentially come out as a media winner time after time whatever the on-field result!



It’s a routine challenge for sports stars to be interviewed almost immediately after their full-on physical and emotional playing performance has ended.



It’s a challenge I’ve sometimes had the privilege of getting sport stars ready for.

And as with media interviews and other important communications moments in every sphere, it’s vital that you take a few minutes (more if you can) to think about what to say before the microphone is thrust under your nose.

This helps ensure that your thoughts and your underlying attitude are in the right place.

Immediately after his defeat – and before he’d left the court following the longest Wimbledon Men’s Final in history – Roger Federer was obliged to do the now traditional on-court interview with Sue Barker.



He was able to laugh off questioning about his massive age – 37 – and come across with admirable good humour… as you can witness here.



This provided a marked contrast to the approach of Johanna Konta.



After having a remarkably good Wimbledon before being eventually being knocked out towards the end, she managed the tennis equivalent of a volley of own goals at her post-match press conference.




Admittedly in these two contrasting interviews, it’s Johanna Konta who faced the tougher questioning.

But dealing with this is a learnable skill.

I’ve shared my rules for being interviewed straight after a match with a number of sporting stars.

These rules include:

+ Regardless of the questions, show grace under pressure

+ Whatever has gone wrong on-field, have a positive good-natured approach off-field

+ Playing the victim doesn’t work 

+ Avoid responding to a question with a question – unless you genuinely don’t understand it or didn’t hear it

+ Seek to get across a positive message (the equivalent of scoring a sporting winner) at every opportunity.

I don’t know for a fact, but I assume based on his consistently assured and gracious interview approach that Roger Federer has had some quality media training.

If Johanna Konta has had any, alas it doesn’t show.

A little guidance on giving great answers to tough questions goes a long long way in sport, in business and beyond – for teams and individuals. 


You can read the first chapter free on line of a book that can help at:



If there is something obvious that you’re going to be asked about, even though you won’t know the exact wording of the question until it’s put, make sure you have a positive message to include in your answer.

For example, in the sporting world I was once working with a rugby team where their attack was typically far more impressive than their defence.

So, knowing that critical pre-match and post-match questions about defence were always likely, we ensured that the captain and coaches would always be ready for this.

As they were working hard off-field to improve their defence, their key message to convey was “boosting our defence is a central priority for us”.

They were ready to follow this with examples of the specific things they were doing in their rigorous physical training to upgrade the tackling performance.

In business across Europe at the moment, the toughest questions are often about how prepared the company is for Brexit.

So assuming your company has taken steps such as stocking up on vital items where necessary ahead Britain’s official exit from the European Union, be ready to specify what these measures are in your answers in order to sound appropriately reassuring.

This is important when facing questions from the media as well as from customers and prospects worried about whether you can supply them.

If you or your team need some guidance to come across as more inspirational or effective communicators – either one-to-one, in groups or at your annual conference or away day – check out the menu of options to help at: 




Do be aware that journalists everywhere are often keen to interview you if they’ve spotted something interesting for their audience that you or your organisation has publicised somewhere on the internet.

For example, some comments I made recently about the pop star Liam Gallagher in this e-zine were subsequently picked up by Talk Radio Europe – which broadcasts in English from its base in the Spanish resort of Malaga.

So it was splendid to be interviewed on TRE’s breakfast programme by its morning radio star Hannah Murray.



In the unlikely event that you missed it live, you can listen to the interview here:


Whether you need to be ready to be questioned as a rock star, a sports star or a business star, you can learn in advance how to shine out before you’re anywhere near a challenging questioner.


Alas I can’t teach you how to reach the Wimbledon finals as often as Roger Federer (12 times so far)…

… but I can help you come out a winner every time you’re questioned – however you’ve just performed on the field of play in music, sport or business.

Planning Ahead Of Those Big Moments In The Spotlight http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/planning-ahead-of-those-big-moments-in-the-spotlight/ Mon, 08 Jul 2019 17:55:00 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4897 If you’re going to speak in the spotlight, there are massive benefits in working on – and testing out – what you’re going to say before that searing light shines upon you.


And when you’re deciding WHAT it is you want to say, there’s much to be said for working in advance on HOW you might best express it.
The importance of taking an enlightened approach has just been underlined by no less a figure than the “God-King” spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.



The Dalai Lama’s performance in a BBC interview suggests that amidst his life in India, in exile from Chinese-controlled Tibet, he isn’t as aware as he might be of contemporary developments on gender equality in the wider world.
The benefits of thinking things through ahead of time – and being tested out before it’s too late – are available to those who take part in communications-boosting sessions in advance of important interactions.
But the Dalai Lama, it would seem, has not taken advantage of such opportunities.
As a result, the benefits of communications-boosting sessions have become even clearer now that the Tibetan spiritual leader has apologised for the most contentious thing he uttered in that BBC interview.


The Dalai Lama is justifiably recognised for his snappy incisive and inspiring wisdom.
He’s the one credited with saying: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”



But perhaps a mosquito was depriving him of sleep before he stumbled into an elephant trap laid before him by the BBC.
In the interview, the Dalai Lama insisted that if he were to be followed by a female successor then she must be “attractive”.
This caused something of a storm.



You can be the judge on whether you think “attractiveness” was the key factor in the selection of the Dalai Lama.


Whatever your judgment the storm the Dalai Lama set off was an easily preventable one.
It was especially so because the spiritual leader had made similar, though less widely publicised, remarks in the past.
So there was every reason to suspect that the topic of female succession might be raised by the BBC – giving him plenty of warning to think through in advance how best to respond.
This is not to suggest that it’s necessarily unwise to hold a controversial opinion.
What’s important is that if you have a view that is possibly out of step with majority sentiment, it’s worth considering whether you choose to proclaim it – and, if so, how you express it.
If you decide to share your view, it’s a good precaution to indicate that you realise the opinion may well be controversial as you express it – rather than appear naïve to the possibility that others might wildly disagree.
Acknowledging that your view is potentially outside mainstream thinking indicates that you are at least aware of alternative views – which will enable you appear more in touch with your audience members… both those who agree and those who don’t.



And it’s always worth considering what questions you might be asked in advance of a big occasion.
This is something which communications-boosting sessions help you focus upon… and enable you to think things out, be critiqued and to refine and polish your potential answers along the way.
The possibility of a question about potential female succession in the Dalai Lama’s case should not have come as a surprise.
In fact, the BBC interviewer who asked about it made reference to his previously expressed views on the topic.
You can check out the inflammatory part of the Dalai Lama interview at:


Of course it’s not just spiritual leaders who may have the odd blind spot.
We can all have them.
But the process of planning, preparing and practising ahead of a big moment – and allowing yourself to be tested out and critiqued in advance – is a way of identifying those blind spots and the potential traps they hide rather than diving headlong into them as the Dalai Lama managed.
Communications-boosting sessions help you focus on what you should say before the spotlight shines – whether in media encounters, job interviews, sales discussions, performance appraisals, board meetings, shareholder events, annual general meetings and more.
They can help you refine your presentations – and how you will respond to questions during and after them.
When you know what you’re saying has been properly tested out – with the communications trainer and, if you wish, a few of your trusted colleagues observing as well – then you can rightly feel more confident that you’re stepping safely in the big moments.
And any difficult areas that the process identifies give you the chance to reconfigure what you say and how you say it in advance so that you shine out rather than come unstuck in that spotlight.
Communications-boosting sessions are offered in a variety of forms. These include

  • Keynotes to get your whole team planning effectively to become more inspirational communicators while they’re at your annual conference


  • One-to-one coaching – face-to-face, on the phone or on Skype – to get you or colleagues in top shape for any critical communications performance


  • Master classes for offsite days, “Lunch and Learn” events, internal company academies and workshops for business leaders’ groups

Communications-boosting topics deal with a range of challenging situations that you and your colleagues need to be ready for. These include:
+ Media interview response training:
+ Presenting with confidence, impact and pizzazz:
+ Perfecting those vital 60-second business introductions to get you connecting with the right people at networking events:
+ Talking to the camera to get your message across in videos on the web and through webinars:
Communication-boosting sessions help you develop the right discipline with the content, structure and delivery style of your performances.

As the Dalai Lama proclaimed in one of his more disciplined performances:
“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.”
Guidelines on how to instil discipline in your verbal responses in the spotlight are set out in “Great Answers To Tough Questions At Work”, published by Wiley, at:


And a free author-signed copy of the book is hereby offered to the Dalai Lama if he chooses to receive it in person next time he comes to London.
The spiritual leader can use it to take his interview performances to a new level and, if necessary, deploy it as a handy bedside deterrent to wave away mosquitos!

Lack Of Interview Planning Plan Results In “Cat Stabbing” Answers http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/lack-of-interview-planning-plan-results-in-cat-stabbing-answers/ Wed, 26 Jun 2019 18:25:23 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4891 Angry pop star Liam Gallagher may attract screaming teenage fans, but his media interview response technique is not something to shout about.
When it comes to giving great answers in media interviews, carefully planning the key messages you’re seeking to convey before you start is a vital element.
It’s not just about attracting attention – something that Liam Gallagher is definitely good at.



And going into a media interview with a positive mindset is also critical to your success, as I highlight on all my media training programmes.
If you go into interviews without any planning – and just say whatever crazy thoughts pop into your head – things can run wildly in all directions.
The latest proof of this comes in an extraordinary interview Liam Gallagher has just granted BBC News.



After a famously falling out with his brother, Noel, which brought an end to their band Oasis ten years ago, Liam Gallagher clearly went into this interview in a still negative frame of mind about the split.
This led to some most bizarre answers.
It included Liam Gallagher’s insistence that he had not stabbed one of his brother’s cats.
He introduced this denial into the conversation even though no one, including the interviewer, suggested that such a thing had ever happened.
The comment was even odder as Liam Gallagher has a record of being fond of cats.



Liam Gallagher also maintained that he had not slapped one of Noel’s children – despite the fact that no one was suggesting he had done that either.
So the interview manages to inject both these disturbing negative images into the minds of viewers entirely on Liam Gallagher’s own spur-of-the-moment initiative.


Of course, an interview given by a pop star can be rather different from an interview by a business person.
If a pop star takes the approach that any publicity is good publicity (something I do not advocate to business clients), then they might measure their success by the amount of media airtime and column inches that result.
In interviews conducted on behalf of your organisation, the actual content of what comes across through the media is far more critical to your success than merely the amount of space you can grab.
Liam Gallagher has a remarkable ability to project a kind of endearing grumpiness and negativity in interviews that should not be copied outside pop world.




But Liam Gallagher’s overflowing anger did happen to trigger some more positive news angles within the BBC interview.
A more commendable aspect is where he speaks passionately about the frightening wave of knife crime amongst young people in Britain, which he indicates is a threat to his own children and others.


Less predictably, the pop star also speaks out against politicians taking drugs – sparking what’s known in the media as a “Man-Bites-Dog” story.
This relates to happenings that are so unlikely that they capture media attention on the basis of their sheer unusualness.
The “Man-Bites-Dog” expression forms one definition of what makes news.
It’s based on the fact that if a dog bites a man it’s so common that in most circumstances it won’t make news – unless it’s a particularly ferocious attack or the dog is owned by a celebrity.

The opposite of course is the “Dog-Bites-Man” label for non-newsworthy events that are all too common.
So when it comes to politicians condemning pop stars for taking drugs this is something so in line with expectations that it can be regarded as a “Dog-Bites-Man” non-story.
What’s less expected is to have a pop star condemning politicians for taking drugs.
So after a series of recent drug-taking confessions by Conservative Party candidates seeking to become the new British Prime Minister, Liam Gallagher threatened to lash out, saying that if he saw a politician taking drugs he’d “crack him around the head”.


“POP STAR CONDEMNS POLITICIANS FOR SNORTING DRUGS” as a headline is about as “Man-Bites-Dog” as you can get.
There’s not much evidence that Liam Gallagher planned this angle.
Rather it appears to be one of those things that he just slipped into.
So overall, Liam Gallagher’s interview is a mixture of bad interview response practice and some aspects which appear to be accidentally effective.
But when you do media interviews on behalf of your business, it’s not advised to leave things to chance.
To see how unplanned interview responses can fly around in all sorts of unexpected directions, you can study the Liam Gallagher interview here:


If the Liam Gallagher performance persuades you that being trained to do interviews in a more disciplined manner is a preferable choice, check out the media training options at:



My interest in what makes great answers arose out of my previous work as a political interviewer and foreign correspondent – where I frequently witnessed how some interviewees thrived on blowtorch-on-the-belly questioning while others self-destructed under the pressure.
Of course, giving great answers to challenging questions is important in areas way beyond the media.
Dealing effectively with questions from customers, shareholders, officials, boardrooms and from those your own team can be equally – or even more important – at times.
Saving the world from bad answers is a challenging mission.
More superheroes are needed to help tackle the problem.


There are so many bad answers to tough questions amidst current political and economic uncertainties, the quest needs your involvement.
My aim is to equip everyone in business with a new way of learning how to replace bad answers with great ones.
This is through an online video series I’m planning to make with cutting-edge production company Five On A Bike.


There’s more on Five On A Bike at www.fiveonabike.com
I can carry on the quest of helping audiences on six continents in conference keynotes, master classes and one-to-one sessions to help people give great answers.
But we need more…
“GREAT ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD” will be the online video learning series to help make your replies to challenging questions as impressive, bombproof and confident as they should be.
The survey to enable you to help determine aspects of the on-line video series is at: 
It only takes a few minutes to complete.
Help us shape the series and you too can be a superhero!

Being Ready For The Toughest Questions http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/being-ready-for-the-toughest-questions/ Tue, 11 Jun 2019 13:17:23 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4881 Have you ever taken illegal drugs?
Don’t be too concerned… I only want you to think about how you might answer if challenged by someone else.
So, no confessions are required!

I’m posing this question because it’s suddenly become a big  topic which has been thrown at all the candidates vying to become the new British Prime Minister.


And I’m also posing it because – both inside and outside of politics – the drugs question underlines the point that when you’re seeking to move higher is just when blowtorch-on-the-belly questions often strike.

It can be the question at a promotions interview that you long feared.
It can be the question from the board which seems to jump out of nowhere.
Or it can be a media question.
That’s what’s just happened in British politics.
As a vast field of Conservative Party candidates has gathered to seek to take over from Theresa May, the would-be replacements have necessarily been preparing for a range of tricky Brexit questions.
Then suddenly it was all about drugs…



You may or may not worry that Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, once drank a cannabis “lassi” while backpacking through India.



You may or may not worry about an old quote from former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, that’s been dug up from a comedy show where he said: “I think I was once given cocaine but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose. In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar.”



And you may or may not worry about some of those other candidates who admitted they dabbled in cannabis, such as Andrea Leadsom.



You may or may not be concerned about issues surrounding Michael Gove because a former Justice Secretary admits he used cocaine on several occasions.



It was, he insists, a long time ago.
But Michael Gove has since been campaigning to stop other middle class people doing just what it turns out that he did.
It’s the allegation of hypocrisy about his campaigning against drugs not far from the time when he was trying them himself that’s causing the most ripples.
You can check out the interview Michael Gove has done with the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show where there are significant signs of nervousness amidst his answers.
These so-called “tells” suggest he might realise that the surprise question of drugs could sink his candidacy.


Given the challenging situation he has gotten himself into, there was one positive to Michael Gove’s answers in the interview.
To his credit, his message that he deeply regrets what he did does come across clearly.
But the fact that he’s speaking too quickly, blinking a lot, uttering big “ums” right at the start of a couple of critical answers seems to reflect an underlying uncertainty in the strength of his answers.


The vital communication point for everyone is that whatever is thrown at you – whether you’re guilty or totally innocent of the charge or somewhere in between – there’s merit in having your answers thought through clearly in advance and projecting confidence as you deliver them.

And there’re benefits in ensuring that your performance is in line with the image you need to project to help you towards the outcomes you’re seeking.

These are learnable skills.

One of the virtues of getting training on answering tough questions – before any trouble strikes – is that it focuses your attention, among other things, on what to avoid and what actions to take in your business and personal life in order to be well-placed to give credible, confident answers.

If you need to be ready for an expected or unexpected array of tough questions – from the media or anywhere else – you can check out the details of having one-to-one or group training for you and/or your team at:
And for those needing media guidance, there’s free advice on dealing with the media on Disruptive.Live TV.



It’s in the form of a TV interview for the series on “Leadership Mastery For A New Era” conducted by Dr David Clive Price.
Among other things, I point out the key difference between being interviewed for broadcast – on TV and radio – and being questioned for the written word – for newspapers, magazines and news websites.
There’s also guidance on what to do if something goes terribly wrong for your company – as it once did with a fatal Virgin Train crash, masterfully handled by Sir Richard Branson in his dealings with journalists at the time.



If you or your organisation need to be ready to deal with bad news &/or convey good news in media interviews – and would benefit from the kind of training Sir Richard has clearly received – visit:


To help me help you to save the world from bad answers, you also have an opportunity to shape the future!
As preparation continues for an online video series on “GREAT ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD” with the production company, Fiveonabike, it would be great if you could give your thoughts on how the video series should best be developed.
Please give your answers on our short online survey at:
Many thanks.
This is a case where all your answers are great answers!

Lessons From The Theresa May Experiment: Don’t Let It All End In Tears…  http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/lessons-from-the-theresa-may-experiment-dont-let-it-all-end-in-tears/ Tue, 28 May 2019 16:45:56 +0000 http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/?p=4871 As wannabe future British Prime Ministers swarm to replace Theresa May, there are vital communications lessons for all amidst her teary departure from 10 Downing Street.

The overall headline message – which constitutes THERESA MAY COMMUNICATIONS LESSON ONE – is this:
Communications skills matter so much in politics, business and everywhere in today’s fast-moving digital world, if you need to enhance yours – or those of your team – don’t wait until it’s too late.
If you’re seeking a role in the spotlight – or any position requiring connecting with people – do yourself and everyone around you a favour and uplift your communication skills ahead of the pressures to come.
Alas Theresa May did not realise this in time.
Developing and refining your communications skills BEFORE you’re in that important position, is so much better than finding yourself hopelessly out of your depth when you get there.
And unlike Mrs May, if you hit a senior level and then realise you need enhanced communications skills, it’s far better to work on them late than never!
Margaret Thatcher delivered her speeches and soundbites so much better after some voice coaching in her early prime ministerial years at the instigation of someone who knew their importance – Sir Lawrence Olivier of Hamlet fame.


It helped Mrs Thatcher sound more authoritative by enabling her to lower her voice at the end of key sentences.
This is something I often help clients with having myself once overcome what’s known as the “Australian Upward Inflection Syndrome” which has – despite my ongoing efforts to stop it – spread to the northern hemisphere and beyond.



Theresa May needed much more than voice coaching – though this alone could have helped sharpen her delivery and prevented her from losing her voice at some critical moments.
But the good news is: Enhancing every aspect of communications is learnable for all.
Being able to get the right messages across – and being able to connect emotionally and effectively with your target audiences – is a vital part of leadership… and a critical part of many other roles in today’s workplace.
Too often Theresa May – despite an admirable doggedness and noble intentions – didn’t manage to get some of her most basic communication challenges right… let alone those with a high degree of difficulty like election campaigning in the frenetic multi-media world.


Theresa May’s communications skills spectacularly failed in her only prime ministerial general election campaign in 2017 when she earned the dubious title “The Maybot”.
The Guardian Sketch writer, John Grace, who came up with the term, found it had such resonance with the public he even wrote a Maybot book…


Mrs May managed to lose her Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority after endlessly repeating robotically the term “strong and stable government”.
And after governing since without a Conservative majority, the weaknesses of her communications armoury helped produce the very opposite of strong and stable government.
Suffering fifty – yes 50! – ministerial departures in just under two years suggests there was something going seriously wrong in the area of interpersonal communications skills.
No wonder her Chief Whip, Julian Smith, described Mrs May’s period in office as exhibiting the “worst cabinet ill-discipline in history”.
So THERESA MAY COMMUNICATIONS LESSON TWO is to get your point across by “showing, not telling”.
You can’t just repeat the mantra of something you see as desirable and expect people to buy into it.
You need to paint the right pictures in people’s minds and be able to demonstrate that you can deliver what you’re promising.
This is the “show” bit.


THERESA MAY COMMUNICATIONS LESSON THREE is that in order to persuade you have to connect with people at an emotional level.
This needed to be applied to Mrs May’s interaction with her fellow European Union leaders – and her own Conservative Party Members of Parliament – with whom she needed to negotiate over the still ongoing British exit from the EU.
Effective communication is a key part of negotiation.
You can’t negotiate a win-win outcome if you don’t understand what’s driving your negotiation partners and you don’t connect with them about what both they want and you are seeking.
Mrs May’s communication failure also occurred at an individual level with ordinary citizens.
She frequently managed to appear uncomfortable – underpinned by her awkward stance and alarming facial expressions – when she interacted with British voters and others.



And when it came to the biggest UK physical disaster of her time in office – the horrendous Grenfell Tower fire which killed and injured so many – she commendably visited the heroic emergency services teams but didn’t allow herself to mix with the shattered survivors in her initial visit to the disaster zone.
You can be reminded of the details of this set out in the Doddblog in June 2017 at:
Amongst Theresa May’s highest profile recent predecessors, both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair demonstrated an ability to understand and energise their party’s core supporters.
This played a key part in enabling both to win multiple elections – and, in fact, to win every general election each contested as party leader.
And in their very different ways and despite all their faults, both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair had a capacity to often, though less so at the very ends of their prime ministerial careers, connect emotionally with people when it was important to their political success.



Another timely contrast is between Theresa May and the former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, who sadly passed on this month.
Both were born to vicars and both made headlines when they became teary in public as leaders – which Bob Hawke did on a string of occasions.
But he was happy to embrace his emotions and was remarkably comfortable about it – and the Australian public overwhelmingly loved him for it and other things as he recorded the highest Australian prime ministerial popularity levels before or since.



By contrast when Mrs May was becoming (understandably) teary in her farewell speech outside 10 Downing Street she abruptly turned and disappeared.


I wouldn’t recommend anyone to seek to become teary in public, but learning to both contain and embrace emotions at crucial times when in the spotlight is something to aspire to – along with so many aspects of good communication.


The fact that communications skills are learnable is often demonstrated by those who do not consider themselves naturals at the art.
For example, I work a lot with Finance Directors who are, by definition. highly gifted with numbers.
They are often not absolute naturals when it comes to communicating their knowledge and messages to others.
But they usually prove themselves to be excellent learners when taking on this challenge with a bit of guidance.
Finance Directors who are ambitious to move on to become Chief Executives, Managing Directors and Board Chairs can demonstrate that they have an enormous capacity to enhance their communications skills – whether it’s doing presentations, media interviews or giving great answers to tough questions.
What I find is that finance people particularly like formulae for good communications.
So when they’re shown structures for organising their thoughts and are introduced to techniques for delivering them effectively – time and again they surprise themselves.
Highly technically-focused clients can prove to be much the same when you can show them how to talk to the non-techie world without the baffling techie jargon!


If you need improved communication skills for your organisation, do get in touch to discuss a potential programme to hit the right spots.
To get you thinking, you might like to check out the possibilities for individuals to become inspirational business communicators in two six-hour sessions or three four-hour sessions at:
If you’re seeking improved communications skills for your team, have a look here:
And this book can always help:


As the British political classes play their part in choosing the next occupant of 10 Downing Street, for the good of everyone let’s hope this time the selectors take the communications skills of the contenders into account.
If you happen to be the bookmaker’s favourite to become the next Prime Minister, and you’re a charismatic and amusing headline grabber –  but with a tendency to say daft things at times – make sure you listen to the right people!



And if you recognise that better communications skills would take you to a higher level, feel free to call 44 (0) 7944 952835.
Keep smiling,


One of the most challenging exercises that people doing media interviews face is what are called “Down The Line” interviews, where they’re answering questions from a presenter in a different location – maybe even in another country.
In such cases, you have to talk directly to the camera, which can be discombobulating.
But like other communications challenges, it is a learnable skill.
Here’s the latest attempt at it by a one-time political correspondent previously based in Canberra.
He was invited into the TV studio in The Shard in London to be interviewed about the latest Australian Federal election as the results were coming through this month – as there was no one available in Australia in a difficult time zone.
Such is the modern global world that the interviewee was answering questions from an interviewer based in Doha in Qatar, in a broadcast that went around the world through the Al Jazeera network.
It’s not perfect, but the interviewee did manage to keep looking straight at the camera amidst the goings on in the studio!