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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Capello says he only needs 100 words to communicate to his players - some of them are taking steps to do much better.

After working with a Buddhist monk, a candidate at the General Election and a company that had a share in building Dubai’s airport, one never quite knows who the next client will be.

Query solved, as a professional from one of the Premier League football clubs comes forward. An interesting guy planning his exit strategy from the beautiful game once his legs tire. A beacon where the normal imperatives are short-termism, taking a game at a time and conspicuous consumption.

Each profession has its distinctive culture and work regime, but few are literally played out before us under the gaze of Match of the Day. This is as precarious an occupation as it gets. Form, injury and a pool of colleagues waiting to fill your shoes make an unsettling context.

Getting to grips with the world of agents, bonuses, contracts, sponsorship, the media circus and the flamboyance of management is a challenge. Not surprising many go under.

Many professionals have difficulty adjusting to a world where they are not the focus of adulation and celebrity. Not many of us see our lives reported on the back page of the local rag. It can be a distortion. This is a world where decisions are in the hands of others and life ritualised by the club. Makes it difficult to step out and be yourself.

Credit to this professional as he looks at a world after playing, whether it be management, punditry or promotion work. This is a guy whose communication skills will be way beyond the clich├ęs of “being sick as a parrot” or “over the moon”. When some famous names are shouting obscenities at the cameras, there are others crafting more professional presentation skills.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sometimes motivational seminars can damage your health. A day out at the NEC.

I am shattered.

I have just returned from a Motivational Conference/Seminar at the LG Arena at the NEC. My first and probably last. An exercise in showing you how to “Get Motivated” may have achieved the reverse.

The mission statement was "... to ignite that inner passion in yourself...initiate that first step toward powerful change."

Have you ever attended an open-air meat market where the butcher sells his stuff from a van with a microphone-aided commentary? It is a mixture of jollity, irritation, embarrassment and naffness. That is the impression I took away today, after listening to over half a dozen motivational experts at the top of their game.

A surreal day started with a performance by a West End artist, brought up to deliver three of his songs. A backdrop of simulated fireworks completed his contribution. Impressive, but a bit out of place so soon after breakfast. And no connection to what came afterwards.

Our expert motivaters were a mixture of Bruce Forsyth game host bravado and machine-gun staccato delivery. No room for subtlty or reflection here. Key quotes were displayed on large backdrop screens. These gave a hint of sophistication to complement alpha-male stage performances below.

Our presenters then encouraged embarrassing rituals ie getting one to ask a question of your neighbour, shake their hands or give them a hug. I thought this type of delegate engagement went out in the 1960’s with Dale Carnegie.

Soundbite cliches were delivered at a gallop ie “ Is the juice worth the squeeze?” and their impact lost amidst the barrage of rules to achieve success.

Christine Hamilton’s outline of her family’s recuperation after her husband’s political downfall caught the eye. This owed much to her idiosyncratic style. A rollercoaster life is interesting to hear and there was a story to tell. Henry Kissinger’s famous maxim “When options are reduced, it clears the mind wonderfully.” was never more apt.

Effective communicators know about reading audience dynamics so that their listeners do not have the energy sucked out of them. This well-intentioned day did the reverse and a Virgin train home was a relief.

Makes you realise that the best presentations are subtle, encourage dialogue and are not drenched in testosterone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The George Orwell Blog Prize 2011 - Ad Lib raises its profile or perhaps not.

Since 2009, this annual prize for political writing has added blogging to its traditional book authoring and journalese awards.

Blogging is a solitary activity and it is rare to meet a large group of bloggers in one venue. Who are the personalities behind the postings? Blog conventions have not yet evolved to match a Hay-on-Wye festival.

This week’s evening reception in London was an opportunity to put this right: the long-listing of 20 from 200.

A quick declaration of interest is in order. Even now, I am not too sure as to how and why an invitation was extended to enter.

Ad Lib was one of the hopefuls. Alas, it failed to make an impact. Having been around for less than nine months my expectations were humble. Too little focus, weak imagery, not radical enough perhaps?

Snatched conversations in the evening and sampling a cross-section of the authors was going to be a challenge. These caught my eye.

http://www.complicity.co.uk/blog/ Zoe O’Connell
http://lettersfrommalawi.managementtoday.co.uk/ William Mitting
http://thevoiceofreason-ann.blogspot.com/ Claire Khaw

What did the judges seem to like?

Blogs which had a focus through having a story to tell. Incremental additions updating a personal dilemma.

Mainstream national journalists ( Sky, ITV and BBC ) blogging via their in-house facility received mixed comments. This raises the issue of the cross-over between blogging and the 4th estate. What are the implications of blogs which seem to be a shared outlet for a portfolio of writers eg ConservativeHome and Labour Uncut? Surely, a blogsite should have a personality stemming from the input of one writer. What would the BBC's "Letter from America" have been like if Alastair Cooke had been writing as part of a team?

With more to read and time scarce, we should be writing less and tighter. As the blogosphere expands at an exponential rate, the problem is knowing who is writing what, is it any good and how do we meet each other?