First Impressions and How To Leave Them…

What does a great first impression consist of and how do we make them.

An impression is the effect an object or thing has on it’s environment after it is no longer present. An Asteroid leaves a crater, an artist leaves an impression in the soul.

Top tip: Be like the artist…

There are a lot of things that go into making the perfect first impression. Nearly all are under your control, or to some extent influenced by you. So lets begin with the factors you can manage.

Appearance – It goes without saying, but a well turned out person; who carries themselves with confidence and self respect will nearly always make a good first impression. See to it, that if you plan to meet someone or suspect you will, make the effort to tidy yourself up and give the best representation of yourself. Disregard this advice if your name is Mark Zuckerberg and just turn up in a dressing gown…

Social Rituals/Cliches – Another obvious, but often overlooked hurdle in the first impression rule book is the presence of a firm handshake or similar social gesture. The french offer a cheek and the Japanese bow. Different cultures and social settings call for differing levels of appropriate social ritual. If in doubt, lead with a handshake!

The HALO/HORNS – Within ten seconds of meeting a new person, that individual will have made several initial judgments. Based on what they see, hear and feel. A mixture of verbal and non verbal communications will be computed. Often to confirm biases, opinions or self held beliefs. This is a factor that has as much control as luck. You could be nothing but polite and respectful in an initial meeting and not be liked by another person. Solely down to their own self held beliefs and biases. While this is a rare event, we can have some control over this. The best defense against negative judgement in the initial moments of meeting someone is to push the exchange to about 80%/20% talk from you. By that, I mean introduce yourself and your reason for being there, then ask thoughtful and relevant questions. Always address them by their name in this initial stage. It will disarm them and completely sever any inference judgments the person would otherwise make.

Priming – Priming is a technique used in all manner of things in order to lubricate your mind and warm you to something or someone. In a social setting, priming is as simple as an MC introducing a performer. It could be a car company showing you images of exciting and freeing locations and adventures to make you correlate cars and freedom as mutual things, before showing you the price! In a first impression scenario however, being introduced by a mutual contact or friend, is enough to prime the other person. They will have no doubt been told good, positive and reassuring things about you. This bypasses a lot of the HALO/HORNS and/or unconscious biases being sought. Remember also, when you are introducing someone; a positive and light-hearted but reassuring introduction will suffice. This short but relaxed approach, gives a solid start point for their conversation to take place. Plus you will be seen as the very friendly, helpful, honest and witty person who brought people together!

Personal Space – This one is the single biggest ‘bad impression’ behaviour. We have all met someone or know of someone who is a bit too forward, over-familiar or inappropriate when in a social setting. If you are ever in doubt, remember the following:

  • Do not touch someone after shaking hands. Unless you saving them from a venomous animal… 
  • Resist all temptation to make a joke or comment that would make someone uncomfortable, awkward or blush.
  • Scientifically, ‘personal space’ starts at eighteen inches and finishes at four feet. If it is too loud or too crowded, take it outside or elsewhere. Trust me, no one wants to talk into your ear…

Your Legacy – By this, I mean the positive and/or negative memories you leave your acquaintance with. Having a short but interesting conversation. An exciting yet unfinished discussion or perhaps just a mutual love of something. These are all positive legacies that you can re-kindle. The person will be left with fond memories and hopefully a new connection they wish to spend more time and energy getting to know.

“I met this gentlemen/lady at the company day out at the races the other day, we spoke about X and I was blown away by how much money we are leaving on the table at the moment.”  – Leave someone with questions, they will come to you for the answers…

To finish, I would suggest that every time you talk to a new acquaintance, be confident that when you part company; there is a conversation or promise that the other person wants to fulfill with you.

“Leave them wanting more and you know they’ll call back.”

Bobby Womack – American Singer/Songwriter

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Employ a Little Empathy

How do we improve our empathetic muscles and raise our ‘EQ’?

Nowadays, we are bombarded with articles and business interest pieces that tell us ’emotional intelligence’ or ‘EQ’ is the new ‘soft skill’ to have. People with high EQ are this decades and/or millennial generations future leaders. It makes sense in essence, people who are more attuned and able to tap into another persons feelings will be able to leverage the mutual understanding and excel. Effectively showing someone, that you understand and recognise their feelings or thoughts on a situation will win over and earn the trust and respect of more people.

Firstly, we need to understand what ’emotional intelligence’ is… Essentially, EQ is a persons ability to empathize with others through identification, evaluation,  controlling and expressing ones own emotions; perceiving, and assessing others’ emotions, the use of emotions to facilitate thinking and to understand emotional meanings.

Simply put, it is everything that goes into your every interaction with another living thing. It can be recognising that your pet is acting differently, seeing your work colleague’s behaviour and presence become withdrawn or distant. EQ helps you tap into a world of non-verbal communicator and cues, a lot of the time these initial ‘clues’ are what your natural EQ picks up on, then you can interact verbally; addressing the situation or person and demonstrating a caring, open and judgement side. This is key to raising your EQ and becoming that empathetic person.

Read – Wrapping Your Head around Rapport

In my work, I would categorise Empathy into three different streams or rivers. Think of these streams flowing from a mountaintop and down to a sea. Put yourself as the mountain, the start point so to speak. The sea is the person or thing that is the subject in question. Finally, the three rivers/streams are the different flows of empathy working towards the sea. Each river has its own unique features, meanders and waterfalls.

The three flowing rivers we have at our disposal are:

  • Emotional Empathy – Perceiving and articulating that you feel the same feeling.
  • Cognitive Empathy – Assessing, formulating and articulating a solution.
  • Compassionate Empathy – Sensing/Recognising a feeling and articulating it.

These three rivers run independently at times, merge at points and can sometimes be non-existent. It is your responsibility to always have at least one river that you can navigate. Work on these and make an effort in the next conversation you have, see if you can pick up on someones feelings and make them aware that you have noticed.

Packaging our new ‘EQ’ skills into a ready to use tool box. We have to add a few extra tools. This will make the whole thing easier, and it will draw people to you, by showing others that you are a genuine and understanding person. Here are my personal ‘pillars of empathy’.

  • Stop Talking – People can’t convey themselves if you are taking up all the airwaves.
  • Be an Active Listener – Actually be conscious and attentive when listening.
  • No Judgement – Recognise and resist the urge to pass  judgement. *BIG TIP*
  • Avoid unnecessary interruptions – If it is of a sensitive nature take it to a quiet space.
  • Share responsibility for communication – No one wants to be alone in a conversation
  • Over-reacting or silly? – Understand this an issue for THEM, don’t write it off as ‘silly’.

Practice the three flowing rivers and remember to use the ‘pillars of empathy’ to aid in your conversations. All together, they will show people you are a safe port in the storm and that you can be relied upon to help. This goes for personal and business matters.

My friends laugh at me and make fun at my sometimes exhausting ‘soap opera life’. I am an agony aunt and a friendly ear to many people, in business too. As John Donne said, “No man is an island”. This still rings true today, no one can shoulder all the burdens, all of the time. It is essential that we offer ourselves and our time to be someones trusted and reliable confidant and friend.

“I believe that lack of empathy is behind many problems, and I believe that it’s disrupting our society. There is a steady decline in the willingness to be truly generous, and by that I don’t mean monetary generosity, but friendship and sympathy for others.”

JK Rowling – Author and creator of Harry Potter

Wrapping Your Head around Rapport

How do we build rapport with others?


We have all heard of ‘having rapport’; hearing someone say “she has a great rapport with her customers”,”He has a great rapport with the crowd”. Rapport isn’t something you can hold in your hands and as a commodity, it can’t be weighed on a set of scales. So what is it? And more importantly, how do we get cultivating some for ourselves.

I would say simply, Rapport is a mutually respected bond between two or more people that is built by complementary exhanges. Be they views, emotions or information.

Rapport is built slowly in a business and professional setting, cultivating and maintaining ties, offering assistance and providing help. Going the extra mile for the other party with no real expectation of immediate payoff.

Sometimes though, you need to put your rapport building into overdrive. Occasions like networking events, public events, social gatherings etc. You need to build a fairly firm connection with another person or group and have them or mutual parties, vouch and confirm that you are geniuine and have a genuine desire to connect. Sure, you can leave them a business card, contact details, Linkedin request and/or schedule another time to meet. But you need to get the initial hook in and start building rapport. This will build that genuineness and demonstrate your credibility.

Read Credibility – What is it? 

How do we consciously build rapport then I hear you ask. Well, we have a plethora of options available to us. We just need to temper them to the situation we find ourselves in.

Firstly, we need to understand that building rapport is a risk and reward exercise. generally the safest acts and rituals will not move the needle, because you are only conforming to normal standards, i.e shaking hands when you meet. (99% of people in a business setting do that). You need to be further up the risk ladder if you are to get the result you want. If you are sharing your emotions and deep thoughts, whilst engaging in a riveting conversation or exchange, be it in agreement or not. Then you are up the risk ladder and your payoffs and rewards are potentially greater. Read my piece on debates and exchanges here.

The middle ground to this aproach is a happy medium which you can achieve after you have shaken hands, kissed cheeks, bowed respectfully to one another or even performed a curtsey. This green zone is an area where you share facts and information, these exchanges are safer as they are grounded in reality and if you are both passionate about the subject you are sharing, you will likely be able to agree on; or add more information and facts to the conversation. From here, as confidence increases and nerves setlle, you can then go up the ladder to the emotions, ideas and judegements plateau!

Some key takeaways for building rapport and demonstrating a genuine, authentic and mindful personality are:

  • Not rushing the encounter or overloading the other party
  • The conversation makes sense in the context of the interaction
  • Equality and Empathy – treat your conversation partner(s) with respect and dignity
  • Discuss Topical Issues, extracting their views or opinions to help shape your response – this shows you are an active/attentive listener (fantastic trait)

Some key red flags and definite rapport burners are:

  • Over famliarity
  • Lack of professionalism
  • Arrogant and officious demeanor or attitude
  • Judgemental or pious stance on others andn the views they hold
  • Poor communication (goes without saying)

On a final note, I would advise anyone serious in their career, passion or just self development, to understand the value and potential massive ROI you can receive from just being a good conversationalist and rapport builder. Most successful people I know, in business and leisure have stumbled on more opportunities and life changing moments because they made the right connections and sparked the right minds into conversations. Get out there and show people just how much you can bring to any conversation and moment.


“Rapport equals trust plus comfort.” – Neil Strauss, American Author, Journalist and Ghostwriter.

For more public speaking advice, coaching and assistance please feel free to email –







What Makes The Perfect Pitch?

Read on to get a few pointers on how to pitch like Babe Ruth…

firstly, lets clarify what a ‘pitch’ is. A pitch is a verbal presentation of your business plan; in essence, you should be presenting to investors that you have a working idea, product, (realistic) future projections, (realistic) financials and of course you will need to have an intimate knowledge of your idea/business. Showing that you lack a depth of knowledge in what you are delivering to an audience/investor is the quickest way to ensure no one gets their cheque-book out.

Investors will want to ‘stress-test’ your business model, your pricing,  your future predictions, your actual product and of course they will play hard ball when it comes to the question of how much of their money you want. Be prepared and expect that you will be under the spotlight. Remember that this person is potentially handing over his/her money for your endeavour. I only hope you would be critical of someone/something if it was asking for your money with little information in return. Be transparent with your audience and honesty is truly the best policy.

Lastly, don’t wear jeans and t-shirt. You are not Mark Zuckerberg. At least not yet. Wear what is considered ‘professional’ in your field. If you are a Creative and pitching something wearable. HIRE A MODEL. Ever tried to pay attention to someone wearing the product? It is terrible and makes you look like a moron. Models are paid to stand around and look good. Spend the money and it will make a huge difference. So lets get down to brass tacks…

Understand that you are not the smartest person in the room. You are the expert when it comes to understanding your business and you THINK you are the expert at what your customer wants. The real lesson here is appreciate what you do know, accept that there is a lot that you don’t know and lastly, what you don’t know is what will kill you (unless you make strides to solve those knowledge gaps). To that end, if you don’t know something, hire someone or ask someone. If that isn’t your MO – surround yourself with people and friends that do know about the knowledge you lack. Just don’t try to pull the wool over your audiences eyes!

Fictional waffle is no contender against cold hard results. We all no someone who can talk a good game, but never seems to show the results of them actually going through with something. It’s pretty easy to spot and it does not lend itself to being a credible ‘go-getter’. The simple fix for this crippling ailment is EXECUTION. Go out there and just get results. Good or bad. Its all data you can use to add credibility and punch to your Pitch. What customer feedback to you have? How many sales have you made? What does your orders forecast look like for this year? Questions like that will de-rail someone who hasn’t done their homework or their hustling. If there is a way to test a part of your business and get some cold hard data, feedback, figures, financial etc etc. Whatever it is, try and capture it and record it. then you can deliver way more to your audience than just anecdotes and waffle.

Keep it short and concise. Just like this paragraph; control the urge to throw everything at the audience. Aim for an ‘elevator pitch’, two minutes or so is ample. You want to get across your big hitting points and demonstrate a water tight model. The ‘nice to know’ information and filler can be saved for the questions at the end. If your delivering a tight presentation that peaks interest. Trust me, there will be questions.

Do one thing perfectly, then repeat. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Which is true as it took centuries to become the Hegemony of that period and boast such an Empire. My other favourite ‘Rome’ related phrase is “It was like the last days of Rome in there”. My point – Your business won’t be huge overnight, it takes years to build momentum, size and market share. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Perfect one service and then once you have a core strength, expand. Rome didn’t wake up with an Empire, it built it. But Rome did see its empire fall down around its ears in the blink of an eye.

Not every investor is looking for a Unicorn. Understand ‘angel investors’ and high risk individuals might be throwing money at Silicon Valley start-ups and digital wearable developers, but 99% of investors want to see tangible products and results. Don’t try and excite and mesmerise investors with projections and valuations that are untrue or unattainable. Show them best case, worst case and the most likely course you see the business achieving. Back that with data and numbers (because you have been executing and hustling). Give them a warm sense of reassurance and a taste of potential if they invest in you and the business.

Learn frugality. This one is a difficult topic to dissect. People see frugal individuals as boring and miserable. Scrooges and misers. Here is my take on the matter: If you are asking someone for their money, do no then host lavish company outings and launch parties, Up your salary to an excessive amount. Don’t upgrade your car instantaneously and renovate/move home. An investor wants to see that you are maximising every penny and pound they give to you. Demonstrate that the company is on line and is fighting for its success.

So there you have it. Demonstrating all of these in your short and concise presentation/pitch should have you walking away with a handshake and hopefully an opportunity to take discussions to the next level. Don’t let the images of Shark Tank and Dragons Den deter you from getting the backing that your idea or business deserves.

“I have found that an effective elevator pitch is nine things: Concise, Clear, Compelling, Credible, Conceptual, Concrete, Consistent, Customised and Conversational.” – Chris O’Leary – American Author






Avoid Becoming A Yes-Man

How Do You Avoid Becoming The Captain’s Parrot?

Everyone is familiar with the image of a Ship’s Captain with a Parrot on his shoulder. The Parrot echoes the Captain, squawking nonsense from the top deck of the ship. That is what I see when working with someone who is unable to think for themselves and just agrees with the companies ideas, policies, etc… They do not rock the boat. Which is fine in most situations, however it shows a lack of drive, imagination, knowledge and initiative.

We have all worked with or know of someone who always seems to take others opinions. Taking their information from the mainstream media without questioning its validity or bias.

Those who generally do not form their own opinions or question the nature of life’s different offerings tend to be easily misinformed, refuted and led. These are the people that you are working alongside and may even find them as your superiors from time to time. A scary thought right?

Something ‘Yes-Man’ don’t have, Read – Credibility – What is it? 

So how do you avoid becoming the Captain’s Parrot? At work for instance, just echoing company rhetoric and always taking the bosses word for it are two prime examples of parroting. A business practice might be unethical, maybe even bordering illegal, the captains parrot will not speak out against his master.

But someone who is informed and knowledgeable will speak out because they don’t just take what they are told as Gospel truth. The quickest and most sure-fire way of avoiding the title of ‘Yes-Man’ is to strive to be informed. From multiple sources. Never rely on a single source when it comes to forming opinions and ideas. Everyone can be guilty of this from time to time. ‘Gossip’ is by far the most dangerous medium for information. Inaccurate, twisted, subjective and nearly always intended to undermine who it pertains to.

I take great pride when someone informs me of gossip pertaining to myself. See it as a barometer of success. The more you achieve, the more people will want to bring you down or dash your efforts.

If your success has afforded you the luxury of having people work for you. Then congratulations. But before you go ahead and pat yourself on the back, look at your talent and take stock of who you have employed. Employing a ‘Yes-Man’ is just as dangerous as being one.

Don’t be the stick in the mud or the party pooper, but always seek to question things. That is how you demonstrate your value and communicate to others you are happy to follow the majority when required but if the moment requires it, you can stand up and inform your peers clearly and concisely on an alternative idea.

“I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job”. – Samuel Goldwyn – American Film Producer


A Winning Formula?

Finding your own personal formula to good practice.

As the quizzical title suggests, can there be a single formula to good practice. You know something unifying, regardless of the time and day.

Energy + Focus x Structure / Time = Good Practice?

I like to think there is such a thing. It is as close to perfect as we can get in this imperfect World! The going rate is 10,000 hours. That is the average time it takes to become ‘top of the field’ so to speak. From Quarterbacks, Golfers, Archers, Musicians, Potters and Painters; If someone is to be considered a professional in their field they need to put the practice in and learn their craft. “So I have to talk to myself for 10,000 hours to be a professional speaker?” – you can do that, if you want. But you might be put in an asylum and classed insane.

You speak everyday and unless you have recently taken a vow of silence for religious reasons, I am betting you can hold a conversation. So you are already a professional speaker. You honed that skill as an infant and child. What you haven’t honed anywhere near as much is the confidence and ability to stand in front of various groups of people and illustrate your ideas, translate brain waves and impact people on an emotional level. That is what we want to practice. How? by taking something we have already and replicating it.

Read  – Perfect Speakers Don’t Exist

The idea is straight forward, think of what you are good at and that you enjoy. For me it is between Skiing and Drums. However, one of these is much more applicable (the drums). Now think of the mindset you are in when you are practicing or just dabbling in the chosen activity. Are you consumed by it, forgetting whats going on around you? Perhaps deaf to the people around you as your attention and focus remain channelled? If so, PERFECT! If not, revise your choice and/or work on attaining a level of deep practice through Public Speaking itself.

I practice the drums for only an hour a day. Mostly to keep my neighbours from lynching me. 6pm-7pm, Monday to Friday. It doesn’t shift unless I am away or there is a zombie apocalypse. That is my first key and it is the big one; Consistency. It helps my mind to focus and gives me structure so I can instantly go into a deep practice almost every time. I can be exhausted from work some days but I still strangely have the energy and enthusiasm to practice for 60 minutes. I you want it enough, your mind will move mountains in order to achieve it.

So for my speaking practice I need to re-create that same mindset and attitude about being consistent. Through doing so, it will yield me the energy and focus to stick at it.

I am terrible with keeping to things, so my life is pleasantly structured (OCD?). Even my practice is on a fixed program. I do five minutes of stretches and warm up myself (not a single touch on the instrument). Then 15 minutes of drills and technique on a practice pad. Now I move to the actual kit and begin with more drills, rudiments and stick work for 10 minutes. which leaves me with the final 30 minutes, in this time slot I can be more flexible and spend time trying new ideas, listening to the kit and making changes and then mostly I put my headphones on and just play along to my music. Notice that I don’t take the fun out of my practice. I reward myself with it after.

This is an example of structured practice and it leaves nothing to chance. I am always guaranteeing myself some level of progress. Aimlessly hitting things for an hour a day will not yield results as fast as a structured plan and consistent execution of it. I am not suggesting you practice speaking for an hour a day. But when you do decide to practice, it should be pre-planned and on a schedule that you know you can keep yourself to.

As you plan your new speaking practice around your pre-existing activity of choice, remember that you are aiming for your version of ‘deep practice’, I for one define my practices as ‘good’ by how focused I was and whether or not I have refined a certain thing or maybe had a rare ‘eureka’ moment. That for me is as near to perfect as I will ever get. And remember – Consistency and Structure are what will force multiply your progress.

A round of applause is the perfect proof you have been practicing properly…

Credibility – What is it? 

What is it and how do I get some?

It’s on amazon and you can get it delivered tomorrow if you are a prime customer.

If you believe that, then your quest for credibility will be a painful one. Credibility is a measurable thing. It has no physical weight or mass; but it is visible, it is felt and it is always hard to acquire but easy to lose. Amazon also doesn’t stock it…

Think of building credibility as a game of Snakes and Ladders, the only difference is that you don’t need dice to decide your fate. You can guide yourself around the pitfalls and traps, avoiding any losses.

So what is credibility? Credibility is a mixture of integrity, experience, judgement and knowledge. We have mentioned how integrity is key to speaking on numerous occasions, but how do we build the other traits up, in line with our already strong sense of integrity? Experience is simple… GO DO IT. Judgement is harder to acquire than experience, you need to be able to analyse your field, see trends, target opportunities and impart your predictions. You wont always make the right calls and that is fine, that’s just life. When making judgements, you can rely on your gut or the data. Experience will always aid judgement if you are someone who learns from the past. If you aren’t someone who learns lessons from past endeavours, you are doomed to fail. You will however, be extremely credible in what it takes to be a consistent failure!

The big key here is knowledge. Knowledge is your subject, yourself, even your experiences. It is the all-encompassing entity that permeates through the others to build credibility. Being knowledgeable in a field or subject takes time and effort, but it does afford you some credibility. After all, you know what you’re talking about, so people can tell you are genuine and not a crook. Knowledge without kindness is something tragic though. Knowledge is power and power without kindness is a dangerous tool. Sharing your knowledge and kindly delivering your insight to your field or subject’s enthusiasts is the ultimate goal of public speaking. A genuinely credible person is someone who is kind and connected to their field and their fellows.

The most credible people I know are well-respected, deeply knowledgeable, constantly learning and always giving back to their communities. They are consistent and have a genuine passion for what they do. One of those people is my father, he has demonstrated all those skill and traits throughout his life and now he is one of the industry leaders and specialists in his trade.

So there it is. A simple and not too hair splitting approach to build some credibility and raise your profile in your area of expertise.


To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; and to be credible we must be truthful. – Edward R. Murrow