Breathe better to present better

What do you have in common with a highly-skilled ninja-type assassin? A lot more than you may think. In the novel “The Rhythm Section” (soon to be a major motion picture), a down-on-her-luck young woman is selected to become a secret agent. She goes through a gruelling training process that pushes her to her limits, and beyond. In the depths of cold, wet, exhausted despair her trainer, Geordie, then gives her a valuable tip: “‘When you’re in a tight situation, you canna be panicking. You gotta keep hold of yourself [..] By looking after your rhythm section […] When you…

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To command Attention, present with Attention

Your audience is spoiled rotten. Whenever it may be, whoever your audience might be – any audience – they’re pretty much certain to be spoiled. Pretty much certain to be infinitely distractible, to have short attention spans, to be twitchy and fickle. Everyone in the audience is used to getting a constant feed of compelling media content that’s honed by algorithms to grab their attention.  Everyone has anytime access to the world’s most riveting performers, from polished TED speakers and jaw-dropping commencement addresses, through star stand-up comedians, to kittens and kids doing cute things. Everyone has the itching sense that…

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The benefits of (not) being Patrick Stewart

Walking into an upscale restaurant in rural France on a Bank Holiday break, I was on my way towards our table and nodded politely to the couple at the next table. After a brief hesitation, the lady of the couple reacted. She looked at me intently for a moment, her eyes widened, she broke into a big smile of recognition and mouthed “hello” as I walked past and sat down. What’s with the hello? I definitely didn’t know her. But her reaction was very familiar. Over the past few years, often when I meet people for the first time, they…

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Yeah yeah yeah, but…”

In the early Noughties, when I lived near Amsterdam, I used to take part in a coaching group. I didn’t much like the guy who ran it, and I wasn’t crazy about the other people either. But I had a sense it was worth the trouble, so I regularly made the half-hour drive. One day it was my turn in the hot seat and somebody gave me some feedback. I started answering back immediately. Before I could say more than a few words, the leader held up his hand, palm towards me, and said simply “technische afhandeling” (technical processing). In…

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Digitally disembodied

You are reading this on the Internet, so you have probably developed some level of digitally-enabled “ambient awareness” – a constantly-updated sense of what’s happening near and far. The Internet can extend our senses round the world, even if it’s just getting the latest snaps from family and friends. In an excellent article in the New York Times, Clive Thompson talked about the cumulative effect of social media updates: “the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives.” That’s the upside. The downside is that constantly looking at screens can cut you off…

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