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The EYES Have It!














Having spent a couple of hours walking around the National Gallery of Ireland, I found myself in the hall of portraits. This is a collection of paintings of famous Irish people, both living and dead, by famous Irish artists, also both living and dead.

My observation was that the paintings that connected with me and engaged with me were the ones that I felt the subject of the painting was watching me and looking straight back at me.

I was there as part of my commitment to give some time to art and creativity, one of the requirements when signing up to the Artist’s Way Program with my good friend Eve Earley.

My time in the gallery was both relaxing and stimulating, and got me thinking about the importance of eye contact in both our personal and public lives.

A wet fish handshake is not nice, but not looking at someone when having a conversation with them is a much bigger sin.

Let me tell you why you should look at people when having a conversation with them, be it one, five or hundred in your audience.

Eye contact says, I am interested in you and your ideas. Letting me know what’s important  and allowing a judgement to be made by  observing your body language, gestures, smile, frown, etc.

Most importantly when you take the focus off yourself and put the emphasis on your audience, it immediately reduces your stress levels and helps you to be a more effective communicator.

TIP:  Advice I always give to people I coach is, mingle with your audience 10 to 15 minutes before you are due to speak. Chat and have a coffee with 2/3 people, it will relax both you and them.  You can take this interaction to another level by mentioning them by name during your talk, e.g., “As John was saying earlier …”

For information on my next Presentation Skills Programme click here

You can choose to style yourself on Bob Dylan or Van Morrison and not engage with your audience or, as I would prefer, pay money to see Bruce Springsteen or Coldplay.

Most of us do not have the talent of any of these four artists, but we can engage with an audience, making the conversation more interesting for all parties concerned.

The purpose of a presentation or pitch is for your ideas to stick in the memory of your listener.

Recently, some minutes after six companies had pitched for investment, the adjudicators (me included) had completely forgotten 50% of the pitches; we could not even remember the companies’ names without prompting.

Make eye contact and this will improve your chances of being remembered.

P.S. This means no notes or very few!

My job is to help presenters’ ideas to stick/stand out so they will win sales and investment.

For information on my next Presentation Skills Programme click here

Remove Stress from Public Speaking! Come on a journey with me …









“All poems should begin in delight but end in wisdom”
Robert Frost

If you have an important presentation coming up, or a pitch for business, the above quotation is critical to your success.

Your talk must begin with delight – the audience must be engaged and entertained on commencement of your talk, but more importantly, they must see the wisdom of what you are proposing and how your suggestion will benefit them.

Analogy (one of the most powerful tools in a presenters armoury)

I often use the analogy of ‘planning a car journey with children to planning a talk to a business audience’.

In both cases you need to take your audience on an enjoyable and exciting journey that offers the prospect of an outcome which will be to their benefit.

Let me explain …

Car Journey Presentation Journey
1 Decide who’s going to travel in the car with you, e.g. your children and perhaps some of their friends The speaker must also decide who them would like to come along on this journey with him them, e.g. key decision-makers, etc.
2 There is some preparation required. Fill the tank, check the tyres, stock up on goodies for the journey Room layout, backup presentation on memory stick & computer. Clicker, spare batteries, timer, hard copy of presentation etc.
3 You are all set and pulling out of the driveway and telling the children about the great fun that will have at journey’s end. This is also what great speakers do, paint work pictures of how the audience will benefit from the journey they are about to embark on with you.
4 Shortly you will hear the immortal words ‘are we there yet’.This is where you have to start the first story or game – I spy something beginning with … It’s always best early in the talk to outline the problem you solve for members of your audience. This is often best done by ‘telling a story’ that fleshes out the issues that most concern your audience.
5 You have staved off the first round of ‘are we there yet’; you need to keep chocolates, toys, story books and a stop at McDonalds in reserve if you plan to make it to your destination intact. The opening was a success; you have your audience’s attention. What are you going to do next to hold their attention? I suggest using Analogies, Demonstrations, Examples, Facts, Statistics or Testimonials.Warning: Data overload is the greatest failing of speakers, so use the above sparingly.
6 You are now only 20 minutes from final destination and all supplies and entertainment skills have been exhausted and war in the car is fast approaching. This is where your planned masterstroke is unleashed. You reveal not only that you have ticket to the Amusement park but your tickets allow entry to the most popular ride without queuing!!!! Your talk must end by telling / showing the key influencers in the audience how you will make their lives BETTER as a result of taking your very specific advice. (Not a  bullet point list)
7 Action: Kids to stay quiet for next few minutes allowing you to focus on driving and getting them their even quicker. Action: The # 1 failing of speakers is not agreeing an action with the audience.So decide on the outcome you would like to achieve before ever setting out on the journey.


If you would like to know how to create great presentations that include analogies and other great presentation techniques please register here for my next Presentations Programme starting in Dublin on the 27th September.


Why are you nervous in front of some audiences?








Why are you nervous in front of some audiences and not in front of others?

Regularly, I coach senior executives who are at the top of their game and leading major organisations with great success.

Yet, when I tell them what I do, they are all ears.

Why is this?

They tell me they can present on occasions without the slightest concern and feel they are comfortable and in charge, yet on other occasions their heart pumps out of their chest.

The reason for this is quite simple; the audience has changed.

With some audiences, they are in charge and not being evaluated by their peers, or are not concerned if they are.

On other occasions, there is some person or group who they feel they need to impress and prove themselves to all over again.

This person now has several options:

  • Rely on the presentation that they always do, and if they are honest with themselves, have probably lost enthusiasm for.
  • Add more slides and videos hoping to take the emphasis off themselves. Not a good idea as you are giving away your power and the video may not play on the day; this happens more often than you may think.
  • Delegate all or part of the talk to somebody else, it’s always good to share opportunities with your team, but it must be for the right reasons.
  • Ideally, with the support of a good coach, create a talk for this audience and no other.

 “There are only two types of speakers in the world: the nervous and the liars” – Mark Twain


Now we are back to the first question that needs to be answered – who is the one person in the audience that must hear your message; will that message be of benefit to them? (make them better?)

In any business audience, there is usually one key influencer and if he/she gets your message, others will also pay attention.

Here are the questions you have to answer in preparation for your next presentation:

  • Who is the audience, be specific; write down a name: ________________
  • How as a result of listening to you and taking your advice will this person be better?

You must answer this question clearly and succinctly (this is your take-home message).

Remember one of Stephen Covey’s habits of highly effective people is “Start with the end in mind.”

What you usually see, when asked to review organisations slide presentations, is a final slide with a list of bullet points about what the presenter hopes are the reasons for you going with his/her proposal.

This, I believe, is not what the audience wants.

They want to be told very specifically in a sentence or two why they should take your advice. Ideally this message should be supported by an image that visualises the benefit you bring to the table.

The analogy I often use for explaining this to a client or an audience is as follows:

How often have you felt deflated, believed you had wasted hours of your valuable time watching a TV show or reading a book only to find it has a most disappointing end?

Great movie directors and writers know how the film or book is going to end before they roll a camera or write a chapter.

So should you!  (A good coach can speed up this process.)


Prepare presentations in half the time!

Is your goal to have more time?

Let me tell you how I can save you time by being more productive!

“Humanity’s goal is to save more time” – Marcus Weldon, President Bell Labs & CTO Nokia

How scary is it to look at a blank page on a screen and realise that you have to populate it with words and images that grab people’s attention and retain their interest for a period of time!

My business is coaching/preparing people to make important presentations. Here are some of the tips, advice and guidance I give them.

This advice does not only apply to presentations; it’s equally applicable to e-mails, proposals and tenders that you are required to send.

My solution to this problem is templates.

I provide my clients with templates for the typical scenarios that arise every day, e.g. sales talk, pitches, proposal, tenders, documents, etc.

Initially, all that I require of my client is to answer the questions asked of them on the template. The skill is then to expand/enhance each answer by the use of stories, examples, analogies, etc.

My templates dramatically reduce the amount of time required to get ready.

You’re saying it can’t be that simple – but it is …

Here are some examples of where templates are used:

The template for a book is xxxx number of words, divided into 8 to 10 chapters each with a heading and a number of subheadings.

This skill/genius is that each writer puts his/her own style into the content. Be it James Joyce, Maeve Binchy, Frederick Forsyth or Stephen King.

Tip: All great writers start with the end in mind and often write the last sentence first. You should do the same.

The Movies:

Western movies generally have the same template –

The hero rides into town – something happens – our hero rides out of town.

James Bond –

Start: With action + more action + kissy kissy


 “89% of award- winning ads can be classified into six basic categories or templated” – ‘Made to Stick’ – Chip & Dan Heath (one of my favourite books)

Great Ads are always telling stories in 20 – 30 sec –

Here is my suggested template for introducing you or your business idea:

Question 1:

What is the problem you solve for your prospect?

(Tell a story/example to demonstrate your knowledge of the problem)

Introduce yourself.

Question 2:

How do you solve this problem?

Question 3:

How is the prospect better as a result of your intervention?

If you wish to be more productive and free up time by using templates please get in touch.

P.S. Added Bonus

Here is a great template for a tweet:

  • Question?
  • Solution
  • Call to action with Link


Create Memorable Presentations – Overcome Death by PowerPoint


Here are a number of questions for you –

Do the people who write story books for children start by drawing the pictures and then write the story? Or do they (as I believe) write the story first, and then have an artist draw the pictures that enhance the story?

This is clearly the sensible and practical way to go about creating successful children’s storybooks.

So why is it that many companies attempt to create the slides for the presentation before they have created an impactful narrative that will hold people’s attention?

This is definitely putting the cart before the horse as it would be explained in a storybook with words and images.

Here is another example of a situation where this arises. I will always look at an organisation’s website and LinkedIn profile pages before  arranging to visit them.

On arrival, I will strike up a conversation about the website, only to be told that the site is out of date or does not reflect where they currently are.

So if you want to create sticky messages that are remembered long after you have left the room or want a website that is impactful, please read on …

So how should you go about creating presentations and slides?

Firstly you need to ask yourself do I need slides, and more importantly does my audience require slides?

The expression “send me your slide deck” has become ubiquitous, but will people take the time to review your deck, and if they did would they be more informed about how you can be of benefit to them?

If you feel you must have slides, here is my advice as to how you go about preparing your talk and enhancing it with slides.

In previous articles I have advised about how to prepare talks/presentations, so this time let’s focus on creating the slides.

(If you’re having difficulty doing the above engage a communications coach to help you get your story down on paper)

Having created an engaging and entertaining story for your audience now get some blank pages and get started on the slides.

Give some time to thinking about what text and images will enhance your talk and make it more memorable?

Read over your talk with the blank pages close by, write some key words, phrases or sketches (stick drawings are all that’s required), some images that would enhance the talk.

Note: To be effective, slides must be capable of being read and understood in 10 seconds.

At the end of this exercise you will have a talk and a pile of pages. Lay the pages out on a large table and practice the talk out loud referring to the pages/slides where appropriate.

Based on my experience when walking through this process with clients, we generally reduce down the number of pages/slides by asking the question, is this slide for the presenter or the audience? The slides must always benefit the audience and not just be there to act as the presenters notes.

When this process is finalised, give the pages to a person who is good at creating slide presentations in your organisation, or externally to my friend and colleague Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh of and let him do his magic.

“A great talk can be greatly enhanced by creative and imaginative slides, but remember, create the story first.”

Have you found this article to be informative? If your answer is yes, please like and share with colleagues.

A Woman’s Heart

A Woman’s Heart was a compilation album released in 1992 with six female artists, namely Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Black, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, Frances Black and Maura O’Connell.

This album was a huge success selling over 750,000 copies more than any other album in Irish chart history.

The album transformed the careers of all six women, who are still household names in Ireland and still performing.

Why am I telling you about a woman’s heart?

Recently I have been coaching a lot more female entrepreneurs who I believe will have careers in business for as long as the ladies who performed on this very famous album (25 years).

Let me introduce some of them to you:

Xuemei Germaine CEO MicroGen Biotech (pictured above)

Xuemei is from China but has made her life and career in Ireland.  Xeumei’s Business is in the AgTech space and she recently won the sustainability award at the Forbes Thrive Accelerator program in California. She put a plan in place to get picked for this program, one of 10 companies from 200+ entrants from around the world.  On being accepted she immediately focused on winning the sustainability award, following in the footsteps of another Irish success story Maggrow who won the award in 2016.

On Tuesday (4th July) I had the pleasure of attending an amazing Female Investor Meetup event in Dublin organised by Anne Ravanona, Global Invest Her for female entrepreneurs who were there to listen and meet Shelly Porges and Kelly Hoey along with other strong and influential women in business.

Sarita Johnston of Enterprise Ireland told them that entrepreneurship is now a career path for women as well as men.

By coincidence on the same day I attended the final event of the Ryan Academy’s Female High Flyers programme where ten female entrepreneurs who are were well on the way, pitched to winning sales and investment.

I coached all the amazing women I have introduced you to today and here is a note just received from one of the participants in the Female High Flyers programme:

“Never in my life did I imagine being able to stand in front of a crowd like yesterday at Ryan Academy and speak. I have struggled with this for years and yesterday was a big day. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help”.

Lewize Crothers, Founder Exit/Entry 

As you may know, I help business people and organisations tell their story and pitch for sales and investment. When doing this my emphasis is always focused on having my clients speaking from the heart and demonstrating the values they represent (not telling me their values but showing me).

I regularly tell people that as soon as they stand in front of an audience it’s SHOW BUSINESS.

In short, be engaging but also be entertaining.

Women are on the march, look out Guys!

Click below to register for this upcoming webinar on how to create your Elevator Pitch:

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