Category Archives: Topical


Apparently Pippa (then) Middleton  ignored my advice to her, for her best man, in my last post. There are many simple ‘rules’ that would have helped him. if he saw them he ignored them. The result according to various press reports was dismal :

‘posh wedding guests squirming’,  ‘best man turns air blue with bawdy jokes’, lewd best man speech flops’,  ‘toe-curling ten minute address made several close-to-the knuckle references including likening Pippa to a dog’, ‘crude sex references’  ‘unfunny, dull, clichés,’  ‘beyond cringe’,  ‘awkward silences’ and ‘dull, disrespectful and pilfered from the internet’.

The best man is quoted in one paper as saying : “As far as I’m aware it went fine.”

On the premise that typically the only speeches that get talked about are the bad ones, then he may have achieved some desired ‘celebrity’.

However…. if he had noted these simple ‘rules’ everyone would have liked his speech, not just him.

  1. Do not embarrass anyone, particularly the couple, don’t wash dirty linen in public
  2. Tell stories not jokes, particularly off the internet. Sound false and can fall flat
  3. Don’t go on too long, temptation to hog stage. 7 minutes enough for most
  4. Don’t just talk to your peer group. Grannies will not ‘get’ your in-jokes
  5. Check your speech with the real heroes of the day, the couple. Don’t be the hero.
  6. Think about what your audience want to hear, not what you want to say.

For more wedding speech wisdom check my  book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  in bookshops and on Amazon




A recent article  by Craig Brown in the Daily Mail noted that many political biographers are attempting -without much success- to emulate thriller writers like Elmore Leonard and Dashiell Hammett, well known for their dramatic opening lines. Best of them, Raymond Chandler; “The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in the back of a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith…”

Apparently, Cherie Blair starts her In Speaking For Myself with “O.K, guys, that’s it. Let’s do the business.” While not the subtlest of phrases, you can’t question her intention to make a powerful, lasting first impression as important to the book, play, movie, speech, poem or song as to the pitch.

The film Patton grabbed attention with “Now  I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war  by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his.”

Gentler but unforgettable words from Jane Austen set the scene for Pride and Prejudice, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Two contemporary songs capture instantly different moods, and personalities, Amy Winehouse’s “They tried to make me go to rehab /  I said no-no-no.” And Sinead O’Connor with, “It’s been 7 hours and 15 days / since you took my love away.”

Two rather different love poems, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How I do love thee? Let me count the ways,”  and Andrew Marvel (in pitch-mode) To His Coy Mistress ,” Had we but world enough and time/ this coyness lady were no crime.

Of course pitch teams do not number a Shakespeare to give them a “to be or not to be” opening but this is no excuse for not having any kind of planned start, a feature of many otherwise reasonable pitches.  It is a wasted opportunity and a final quote – if you have not yet watched the ‘winning movie’- “Remember, a winning start means a winning finish!”





BE-YOURSELF-NEW  in a recent  coaching session, with a supposedly inexperienced and possibly nervous , speaker I was reminded that the first thing a coach should do is engage in some normal everyday conversation.

Chat away about something that interests both of you, listening and observing,  In almost every case, an entirely natural, animated conversation style will be revealed. Easy body language,  gesturing for effect and pausing for thought. You being yourself!

For a lucky few, this naturalness is maintained, seemingly effortlessly, in any performance. Few more so than Jamie Oliver. This is how A.A.Gill,  writing of his first meeting, described him:

“I can’t remember anything about it except he was one of the few people I ever met who had absolutely no fear of the camera. He was exactly the same on as he was off. There was zero performance anxiety. It wasn’t arrogance or vaunting confidence, he was just unusually comfortable behind his own character.” 

For the less lucky, most of us, the challenge is to maintain this naturalness under the pressure of performing perhaps for the first time.

Often the best first step is to  concentrate, not on the performance itself, but on the way you structure and arrange your script or content. Make it easy to deliver (and for the audience to follow), utilising the ‘rule of three’ with no more than three supporting arguments to your main theme. An earlier post  discusses this:  Handling the BIG speech nerves.

My book “It’s Not What You Say, Its The Way You Say It!” explores many practical aspects of performing naturally when it really matters, being yourself, but better.

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available in bookshops and from Amazon



HammersmithHospitalSculptureSome weeks ago, (for what turned out to be a very minor problem) I needed to attend the walk-in dermatology clinic at the Hammersmith Hospital. Managing to lose myself in endless corridors, I arrived late to find I was number 43 in the queue of other patients.

Not surprisingly, since illness is not defined by age or background or country of origin or demographics, the patients were a diverse group and, I assume, equally diverse as ‘patients’ -easy, difficult, resistant, uncommunicative (many not speaking English).

They shared, again I assume, some level of concern ranging from mild to extreme and fearful.

This is where an astonishing demonstration of the perfect bedside manner came in.

As my number  was called out, I realised that there was a single consultant only and that I was the 43rd of her diverse patients towards the end of a long day. In the ten minutes or so of consultation, I experienced something akin to a pitch, a good one.

BEDSIDE MANNERIn the first moments, she somehow ‘read’ me as an individual making the all important connection on introduction that reassured me about what might follow. In ancient rhetoric this is the appeal of ethos.

Her professional skill and expertise, her reasoning- logos- solved the practical problem.

But it was her emotional quality, the appeal of pathos, that even in the restraints of a ten minute doctor/patient meeting, inspired as well reassured this patient.





Nelson Mandela had charisma and a towering presence but he was not a great orator. His impact as a communicator owed more to his appearance than his speeches. Featured in the Mail, extracts from Nelson Mandela Portrait Of An Extraordinary Man by Richard Stengel revealed some fascinating mandela 1insights into his belief in the importance of appearance:    Continue reading