September 9, 2010


When  senior executives throw up their hands in despair at the prospect of successfully managing the external environment; when shareholders worry that their investment might be under-protected because the professional managers in their  company  appear not to be managing: what should they do?  Many executives shake their heads, intimidated or confused by what appears to be the unfamiliar and complex.  Successfully managing the  external environment – government relations,  relations with relevant NGOs, the media and other important components in that  mix of sectors usually  not within the typical comfort zone of control of corporate executives  –  is crucial to the success of many companies. If you get it wrong it can put you out of business.  You can list the obvious business sectors that have a real interest: pharmaceuticals, oil, tobacco, liquor and (topical nowadays), finance. But what  about  food, science & technology and  information technology?  The list is really much longer.

The ‘do-nothing-until-we-really-have-to’  approach can have devastating consequences on your business and shareholder value. But where and how  does one begin to understand the process and learn how to read the map?  Following a clear and simple process is  critical. It can make an apparently complicated  way forward reassuringly straightforward.

Step one is to have very clear objectives, that is uncomplicated  business objectives.  And then the rest follows.

September 9, 2010

‘The doctor is often the worse patient!’ ‘Better late than never!’


Whichever aphorism is more applicable, at last I have come around to writing a blog of my own. So much hot air is written in blogs these days – though obviously there are some very good and serious ones – that I did not want to be accused of contributing, in any written way at least, to ‘climate change’. But friends have encouraged me to start.

This note is to share some thoughts of mine, based on my own experience, to improve the way we speak, communicate and present to groups of people. I often share this with managers and executives. Many of us, in our professional lives at least, are obliged to speak/present to audiences often. Yet for most of us it is neither natural nor enjoyable. Who in their right mind really derives pleasure from standing on a podium talking to lots of people, even people we do not know?!

But what about the poor audiences, sentenced (even condemned?) to listen to so many bad speakers and presenters? Spare a thought for them. If speakers usually derive little or no enjoyment standing in front of an audience, how do members of the audience feel? What are they getting out of the speaker’s ‘performance’?

It’s worth thinking harder about the needs and expectations of audiences. They are, after all, the other important party in the room whenever a public speech or presentation is made.

First and foremost the speaker needs to put him or herself in the audience’s place. What do they want? Modern presentation technology, essentially PowerPoint, even though very good, allows the lazy to become lazier and get away with poor preparation; the timid to hide behind what is written on the screen without verbal (and dynamic) explanation; and the inconsiderate speaker to focus too much on what is presented rather than what is understood and retained.

But how to improve and where to start? More to follow….