Use Your Intuition for Podium Recognition

finding-your-voice1Intuition is the gut feeling or insight that we all experience, but too often we allow our intellect to overrule the ‘sotto voce’ in our heads.

Many emergency workers whose job it is to keep people safe, trust their intuition inexplicably and act upon it immediately without questioning.  Like the story of the firefighter, who dousing a seemingly easily managed fire, knows instantly at gut level that he has to get out of the building.  He makes it out just in time to witness the building’s massive collapse and its eruption into a blazing inferno.

Intuition is an immediate knowing, a first flush of thought before the intellect tries to reason it out. It provides us with a sense of knowing that this is the right or wrong course to take, the decision to make or the person to trust or distrust.

Albert Einstein, a believer in the power of imagination and intuition said  “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift”.

6In public speaking, intuition will unfailing guide you to a greater speech and a more dynamic performance.  Use intuition to edit your speech and guide your choice to pick the holistic memory chunks or prompts to keep you on track at the lectern.  Use your intuition to measure the response of the audience so that you can refine or add to your words if needed.  At question time let it direct you diplomatically in your response to each of the questions

Encourage your intuitive ability  by choosing to become more aware of that gut feeling, that small voice in your head.  Challenge yourself to identify  who may be on the caller on phone when it rings or when standing at a bank of elevators ask which one will arrive first.  So at first you maybe wrong – but the more you practice the intuitive message becomes undeniably evident.

 Mary Atkins – Author of the definitive self-help guide to public speaking  Finding Your Voice – ten steps to successful public speaking.        available in two editions  (same content but different covers) throughout the world and now on Kindle.





The Magic of Hoi An

IMG_7971Needs must and consequently we have become expert travel hunter-gatherers scouring for travel deals that offer not only ‘x’ amount of nights in quality accommodation but also provide the additional set of steak knives bonuses. A recent trip came from Sunday paper travel page Luxury Escape promotion to Vietnam. The package included eight nights in beachside luxury in Hoi An, eight spa treatments, one cooking class, breakfast and lunch or dinner daily, two night stay in Ho Chi Minh and a partridge in a pear tree – tra- la-la.

The well-preserved ancient city of Hoi An sits conveniently on the coast so travellers can enjoy best of culture, shopping and beach life. Once a major spice trading post of the Orient in the sixteenth and seventeenth century until the river Thu Bon that winds through the graceful city silted up and trade moved up the coast to Danang.

Our hotel room faced the ocean. It is large and light with a day bed on a glassed in balcony. We sleep well, the bed is a wowser comfortable King plus size, oh how I hanker for a King at home, but I digress, we wake to the sight of a couple of brightly coloured wooden pleasure boats with their elegant curved bows cruising to berth at one of the hotels along Cua Dai Beach.

The glass shower stall proved interesting, neither of us had noticed the dinner plate size shower-head high in the ceiling, rather we were mystified by the site and height of the hand-held shower. It was a point of discussion, here we have a capacious shower stall and the source of ablution placed at the height of an average six-year-old. It was days before we found the fire-hose-bad-hair-day shower head in the ceiling and we no longer needed to limbo under the portable jets to wash clean.

At breakfast most mornings we opted for Pho, slivers of beef poached in a delicious broth served over noodles then topped with a generous handful of aromatic Vietnamese herbs. Yes of course you could have bacon, American and crispy, eggs anyway you dang well please and many other morsels, pastries, cold cuts to tempt but we are in Vietnam and Pho it is, with a little bit of Vietnamese equivalent of gravalax on the side.

IMG_7912Our shuttle from the hotel takes us into Hoi An city centre. In the heat we walk slowly through the dusty lane. Small shops, their windows displays of bespoke tailoring vie for our attention with a graceful weather-beaten curved bridge, Chua Cau, that spans a small canal. The small covered bridge guarded by twin statues of monkeys was built in 1590 to link the Japanese quarter with the Chinese community and is still in use today.

It is quiet, as it is the time of day when motor bikes are not allowed in this part of the city. The only transports to dodge are bicycles and Vietnamese style bicycle rickshaws called Cyclos. The buildings are mainly wood with weathered limed walls in fading cobalt blue, saffron and amber. Colour in these narrow streets catches us with every turn; red long fluttering flags, displays of pearl bright lacquered ware, bales of hued silk and Chinese lanterns that delight and defy the imagination in colour and shape.

IMG_7915By the river we watch an old woman plying a single oared flat-bottomed boat across the river. On her head is the traditional cone hat with a slash of red ribbon hanging from it. She is thin but strong easing her heavy craft carefully into a berth beside the food market. The river on this cloudy monsoonal day has a mirror shine.

We drink cocktails and meet a couple of young lads from Welsh Wales walking through the street dressed only in their boxer shorts and ladies silk dressing gowns. Their excuse, not that they needed one, was they had just completed the ice bucket challenge. Groups of children wearing traditional dragon costumes ran to and thro excitedly at tourists and into shops scaring the devil away while their comrades made sure the devil knew they meant business by steadily banging a huge drum lashed to a  billy cart. It was Vietnam’s Independence Day and a time of celebrations that gave these small boys full reign to have fun.

IMG_7924The drums were distant in our restaurant, Faifo Xua is an elegantly refurbished historic merchants home with its own art gallery. Young women graceful in their áo dài: tight-fitting silk tunics worn over long pants, took us to our table. The menu was billed as creative Vietnamese cuisine and the food did not disappoint. I was hard pushed to share my spicy fish and belly of pork clay pot. It was my birthday and desert came as a cake with chocolate writing wishing Mrs Mary a very happy anniversary, instantly there was music, a pianist playing on an old piano and it seemed as though the whole restaurant joined in the chorus, happy birthday to you ….

 The resort style of hotel was perfect we swam and slouched by the pool by day opting to go most days into Hoi An as the day cooled. What will stay with me long after the jet lag and sharing pictures of the trip is the warmth of the Vietnamese people.  Gentle, considerate people well suited to living in a place called Hoi An, which is aptly translated ‘Peaceful Meeting Place.’


Seeing Red

IMG_5069Oh, you can colour my world with happiness all the way!   Colour My World – Petula Clark 1966

Stats say that silver-coloured cars are the most visible on the road in any light and least likely to be involved in an accident. If you want to soothe the troubled brow then pink is first choice. Yes pink is no longer the hallmark of the pretty young thing created in Barbie’s image it is now being used effectively in prison and mental care facilities to subdue the violent or erratic souls that live within. Yellow and orange make us hungry and wearing bright colours make us more attractive to others as colours are responsible for creating the 60-90% of first impressions and it seems we like colour.

Blue evidently clocks in as the global favourite colour but not necessarily linked to the fact that dogs can only see blues and greens but  can’t see red. BTW it’s a myth that bulls charge when they see red, colour has nothing to do with it the bull simply responds to a moving object.  Little known fact that seeing red before an exam evidently decreases your chances of doing well but red before a race will spur you on to win.

Another red gem –  women have an easier time than men identifying the subtle changes in the colour red because we have an extra X chromosome which allows us to see the full spectrum of reds from crimson to maroon to pillar box red whereas the blokes see red as red, no finite shades just red.

Artists must be seventh heaven playing with all the shades and tones of the colour wheel. Examing objects more intensely than the rest of us, seeing the minute and myriad of shades that make up the integrity of each colour. As Edouard Manet said There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another.

If colour makes you dizzy, nauseous, panicked, gives you rapid heart rate and a headache you may suffer from chromophobia an irrational fear of colour. But the good news is it can be treated so you, like the rest of us, can celebrate the rainbow bounty of colour that surrounds us.

For me the brighter, biting and bolder, the better – crimson with purple, hot pink with British racing green, lavender with emerald, chocolate velvet brown with shiny patent-leather black and palettes of green upon green upon green. Artwork that leaps out at me like the red splash on the white canvas in the recent French film Intouchables or Brett Whitely’s Self Portrait in the Studio that holds your gaze forever with its stinging cobalt blue background. Definitely yes – You can colour my world with sunshine yellow each day. Oh, you can colour my world with happiness all the way! Just take the green from the grass and the blue from the sky up above! 


Mystical union between a speaker and audience

Punchy, quality content must be a taken for any speech of merit but it is in the delivery that the true mettle of the speech will be proven.

Speaking Clubs offer regular speaking practice  and this will develop lectern confidence.  If you  couple this with learned techniques, like the pause, rhythm and colour in the voice to emphasis your message you will become a speaker of some competence.

I think the difference between a competent speaker and a memorable one is the individual who creates, what can only be termed as, a mystical union between him/her self and the audience.

This charismatic difference is found in a speaker who is authentic, completely warts and all true to his/her self.  Sometimes it needs a bit of coaching to push past our ego that wants to be seen as the dynamo at the lectern. It takes courage to accept the fact that you aren’t perfect. But when you are  unafraid to step into your authentic signature style – the audience will recognise the integrity of your language, posture and intent. They will reward you  with their responsive energy and you the speaker will experience the joy of  holding an audience in the palm of your hand.

Pet peeves. Speakers who do not run to time, complacent speakers who think they can wing it or use  jargon – so elitist.  Speakers who shy away from using a microphone,  read from their notes with no eye contact, But my all time head banging irritation is the rising inflection. No ladies and gentlemen it is not nerves that makes the voice squeak  it is a habit which is a barrier to the effectiveness of your communication. While the audience is still hanging with the question mark tremor at the end of your sentence that’s all they hear. It’s a habit a silly habit, record and listen to it and make an effort to quit it.

Here ends today’s lesson folks!

 My book ‘Finding Your Voice – Ten steps to successful public speaking’ in 2005. encapsulated  four decades of my speaking, training/coaching, speaker management and evaluation passion. Promoted by the publisher Lothian  as the definitive self-help guide to public speaking.

From my Soapbox -Are you right? Or are you right?

IMG_5005In the 1950s/60s social etiquette decreed that middle class folks did not talk about politics, religion or sex at a dinner party. Mind you it really would not have mattered at all as most in the dinner party milieu of that time had pretty similar values. Sex, well it was a broad brush sniggering at the smutty jokes that were pertinent to the starter of half a grilled grapefruit studded with a cherry.  Religion was dutiful, rather than a spiritual choice and politics, you should be one-step ahead of me here, conservative with a capital C.

I was Conservative through and through. Both my parents were members of the Conservative Party and as a family we attended all of the fund-raising dances and events organised by our local branch.  We knew we were in the right. In WW2 my father commanded the Royal Artillery battalion that protected Winston Churchill who happened to be our local MP.  My father had a ‘man the gunboats’ view of life.   A mind-set that was born out of his war time experiences and his conviction of that in the long run ‘tough-love’ was best for all men whatever their race or creed. I too for many years shared these conservative values believing that it served the best interests of my country.

Now at the age of 75 I’m a Labour party voter, or for my American friends, a Democrat.  Difficult position because I still frequently swan around in the same pond of old conservative friends, so I adhere to the out-dated dinner-party creed when I’m enjoying their company. For me the switch was about my own gradual evolution.  An evolution marked with life’s passage of loss, marriage, children, a continuing spiritual quest and a mid-life crisis of ‘who the fuck am I?’

My Labour ideals are not based on a ‘bleeding heart’ mentality rather what I see as the softer  more important philosophical qualities of compassion.   The American Poet and Prophet Wendell Berry captures my beliefs in this quote  ‘To make a living is not to make a killing it’s to have enough.’

The demonising of politicians is reaching new levels of vitriol and hate as voters on both sides of the debate find we can’t trust our duly elected representatives. Equally politicians are put into the unenviable position of trying to capture our vote and protect their brand by any means including distorting and fabricating the facts. Sorry I mean lying. We as the public, if indeed we do take an interest, read right-wing editorials or left-wing articles and knee jerk respond accordingly.  Like angry spectators on the sidelines we barrack and cat call. Our party shows us the right way and the opposition is in the wrong.

It is patently evident on both sides of politics that not all politicians are clean. But if we were to take a more tolerant look at them and work on the premise that essentially politicians are well-intentioned people who go into parliament with a passion for addressing issues from their electorate or a desire to make sure that our country is managed effectively – then we have a starting point for a deeper understanding of what makes us tick.

Consider this question – whether it would be possible for both sides of politics to come an understanding that neither party is completely right or totally wrong. Imagine if they could walk in each other’s psychological sandshoes for a moment. If that could happen we may have terms for negotiation.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of this paralysing righteousness that grips our country. No I don’t have the answers of how to fix the deficit, to be equal handed to the millions of refuges who wish so desperately to come to our country, develop impartial tax and welfare policies, to grow the economy or have an inkling of the requirements to grow new industries. That is why we pay our politicians.

Thinking you’re right does not mean you are. The 13th century Sufi mystic Rumi said ‘Somewhere between right and wrong there is a garden – I will meet you there.’

Social media, with its up to the minute is the game-changer. We see almost daily how the dynamics of a revolution has been changed by power of social media. With an avalanche of public opinion these political opponents may seriously consider talking to each other, I mean respectfully, honestly and without a whisper of sledging and who knows what bounty that could bring.

Tell your politicians of choice- there are some very nice gardens around Parliament House – get to it.



Give me a jar of coloured pens ………….

IMG_5093If you are looking for a technique to make planning your work easy and affectice; whether it be the first draft stage of a speech or any written work , become a child again and create  a colourful Mind Map.

Mind mapping originated in the 1960s with Tony Buzan and allows you to generate an organic explosion of ideas.

Just like a road map a Mind Map will give you an overview of your topic, enables you to tap into the wealth of your imagination,  collect together large chunks of data and be enjoyable to review and  consider how to progress.

1. Take a sheet of blank unlined paper. Use it landscape rather than portrait style.

2. You will need a container of coloured pens and pencils.

3. In the centre of the page draw an image or write the topic  that you want to explore from there create logical and illogical branches of thoughts to spin off from the central title.

The one above is an old one of mine.  I create Mind Maps not only for work but for everyday issues where I need to see things more clearly. This Thoughts Shape Your Life Map  is very busy, the ideas just kept coming and I was running out of room but the finished Map gave me great clarity on how my everyday, every moment thoughts affected my life for the better or worse.

Rehearsing a Speech for Success

Winston Churchill 1941
Winston Churchill 1941

Winston Churchill’s war time speeches inspired a nation to overcome what appeared to be insurmountable odds. But few knew that  Churchill suffered from a speech impediment, he had trouble with the letter ‘s’ which he pronounced as ‘sh.’ After consulting the finest specialist of the day he was advised that there was nothing clinically wrong with him and that all that was needed was ‘perseverance and practice.’  Which he did.  It is documented that he spent up to eight hours rehearsing a speech.

When I first started speaking in public I rehearsed endlessly.  It  became a repetitious mind numbing recitation. I thought of it as a necessary exercise to safeguard to myself from the effects of stage fright which froze my brain and tightened my breathing. I determined that if I mastered the rhythm and flow, the pace, the pause, the open stance of body image and practiced putting the oomph into the delivery then no matter what amount of flight or fight adrenalin my system pumped into my body, I too like Winston would over come and let people see the real lectern me.

It took years before I realised that beyond the first few fresh run-throughs my endless rehearsals were simply reinforcing my fears. What were my feelings and thoughts as I rehearsed over and over? My thorough and diligent practice focused on stage fright, being terrified at the lectern and the humiliation of being swamped by nerves.

When you rehearse with an underlying structure of fear that is what you will create at the lectern. You’re telling your subconscious that you expect to forget your words, to have a dry mouth, to shake, to have stomach churns, to increase your heart beat and tighten your breathing.  Grinding  your fears so resolutely into your psyche that you may even emotionally throw the ‘towel in’ halfway through an oration.

Stage fright is a constant for some people, it is for me. It’s a taken. You acknowledge it and allow it to be, knowing that the flight and fright syndrome will always power you. When you don’t fight it – it loses its fearful intensity.

My enlightened rule of thumb for rehearsing was stumbled upon by accident when I was driving to take part in yet another speech contest.  I was sick with nerves.  I stopped the car and  there on the side of the road I decided that if I could not have fun at the lectern then public speaking was not for me.   What is the saying – when you need it the teacher will appear? I remembered vaguely an article on the power of visualisation and the rest is history. Oh and the bonus was I started to win speech contests! Now this is what I teach others about rehearsing a speech –

Always set your intention, before you speak out loud your speech, to visualise yourself at a lectern, you are smiling, the audience is returning that joyful energy twofold, intent on your words, connecting with you at an authentic level. Run through the speech a few times until the words flow organically, replacing any trip-up words or phrases with your language that is comfortable to you.

On the day, just  before you give your speech take a quiet moment – acknowledge your fears tell them its okay, then visualise an image of yourself walking to the platform, you are looking relaxed, you see yourself at the lectern and smile. As you speak you have sense a knowing that you are truly connecting with your audience and they are loving it. Hear the applause, you are having feeling good, receiving the affirmation with delight.

Then go sock it to them.