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Messages from the Bourne Trilogy (Find Your Voice)








Recently, while on my way to speak to an audience of Bankers, I listened to a Desert Island Discs podcast with the movie director Paul Greengrass, Director of three Bourne Films, the 9/11 film United 93, Captain Philips and numerous other films.

He was inspiring and I took down two notes from what he said which I found very interesting. I went on to incorporate his ideas into my talk to my audience of Corporate and Treasury bank people.

The first note/idea I captured was –

“Drama can take you there in a way that facts cannot.”

By way of explanation, he was saying a good story/film addressing a serious issue is much more likely to make an impact, than some dry facts and statistics.

An example of this would be …

A radio interview with a family member, whose eighty year old mother was on a hospital trolley for 48 hours in A&E, is much more memorable than the hospital’s response that the time spent waiting on a bed is down by 1% this year.

Which comment is more likely to be discussed over coffee or at lunch break?

The other comment which I noted down was that at some point in his life (career) he had found –

  • His voice
  • His stories
  • His way

How lucky is he!

In this really interesting podcast he gives credit to some of the people who helped him to find his voice. Please click here and listen to the podcast if you want to be inspired, like I was.


If you need some help in finding your voice, or reconnect with your true voice, please get in touch.


Aristo – Connect 2 Grow explained …

Aristo gives people the confidence to connect.
Connect and build relationships.
Relationships build Trust.
Trust leads to growth in you and your business.

Get Started Writing Now! Guess & Go …

Where do you get inspired? I doubt if it’s sitting at your desk or in front of a screen?

Why should you wish to be more creative?

Creativity is as critical as literacy in education
Sir Ken Robinson

One of my favourite TED talks (+ 38 million other people)

I am presently participating in The Artist’s Way programme delivered by Eve Earley, and the first two steps are to take some time each morning to write stuff (anything), which has the great effect of  clearing your head and getting you ready for the day.

The second activity is to have an ‘artist’s date’ each week. This is where you allow yourself the time to do something, or go somewhere that will help stimulate your creative instincts.

Last month I visited the portrait room in the National Art Gallery of Ireland. As a result, I got an idea for an article/blog  (Click here).

Today, I am writing this article in the Central Library Dublin, surrounded by studious people all intent on what they are reading.

When I want some peace and quiet, I also regularly use Bank of Ireland WorkBench spaces.

Note: all of these spaces are free and have good free Wi-Fi if you feel the need to check in every 2 to 3 hours.  I would suggest you put your phone on airplane mode and out of sight whilst you are there.

I have found that the act of writing longhand with a fountain pen or pencil is more fulfilling than using a keyboard.  The slower more relaxed pace also allows you to be more reflective and creative.

My advice to you is put your ideas down on paper while they are fresh in your mind. You can dictate or type into your computer later. Leave a space / time before commencing editing, or, better still, have someone else do this for you.

All great writers have editors who invariably reduce down the content, to improve the narrative.

Here are some tips picked up over the years having thought about writing articles/blogs but managed to avoid doing so, using various excuses.

  • Guess and Go
    The number one excuse for me and lots of people is that they cannot spell. This for me was overcome with advice from Eve Earley who told me that her children, who were educated in America, received the advice to Guess and Go.  If they did not know how to spell a word they were told to have a guess but keep on writing.
    How I wish I got that advice from my teachers.
  • Get your thoughts down on paper is another piece of advice I received from a writer friend of mine. Tell yourself it’s only a first draft and can be changed or corrected
  • All great writers give credit to their editors. Find yourself a friend or colleague who is supportive of your writing, not critical of your output.

Take my advice and get started. There is nothing as fulfilling as being creative and capturing your thoughts on paper. It will also enhance your career and business, just as it has mine.

Please SHARE with your friends and colleagues and read my previous publications for advice on how to be more creative.

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


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