Michael Dodd Communications http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com Become An Inspirational Communicator Mon, 08 Jul 2019 17:55:00 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 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!


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!