Saturday, 21 July 2018

Wedding Speech Tips from Twitter

Yesterday, I went walking in the countryside of West Sussex with a pal. We walked through forest and fields, chatting all the while. At one point I asked him how preparations were going for his forthcoming daughter's wedding. All on track apparently, but he (a dyslexic person) confessed to some nervousness and anxiety about his 'Father of the Bride' speech. "Maybe you've got some tips, from your experience", he said. I had one or two. He liked what he heard. And we went on with our walk.

At home later, I reflected on what we'd discussed and I wondered if I could have offered more, without seeming to be a know-it-all, or 'mansplaining' to another man. So I posted a couple of tweets out to the world...

To my surprise, I received some quick responses adding to my suggestions, all of which were relevant and helpful, particularly in terms of recognising his potential discomfort, whilst building on the need for authenticity and love. I acknowledged those that I had received (thank you Perry Timms, Robert Hicks and Kevin Maye), and then went out for dinner with my wife (Friday night is Date Night!).

I checked in again after getting home, to find even more responses, a couple of which suggested that there was a potential resource list emerging here for prospective a) wedding speakers, but also b) nervous public speakers anywhere.

So, here it is...

Speech-Making Tips for Nervous Speakers - a curation of advice from L&D and HR tweeters, paraphrased where appropriate.

  1. Learn your speech 
  2. Use a prompt sheet (key points) rather than reading whole speech, 
  3. Speak really slowly 
  4. Practice your speech 
  5. Video your practice - All Me (@niallgavinuk)
  6. Know your opening deeply and truly. Once that happens the rest flows - Perry Timms (@PerryTimms)
  7. Write the words PAUSE and DRINK into your prompt sheet (use different colour pens) - and do them - Robert Hicks (@HRinLondon)
  8. Relax; everyone in the room loves you, but no-one will remember the speeches - it's all about the dress! - Kevin Maye (@donnyboy71)
  9. If it all gets too much, just speak from the heart. Pause at the beginning. Look around. Acknowledge the people around you - Nick Ribiero (@MrMiNiki)
  10. Remember that everyone's on your side. No-one minds if you c*ck up a bit of it or lose your way. It's a human thing to do - Tony Jackson (@JacksonT0ny)
  11. I made my wedding speech up on the spot! When I gave the eulogy at Dad's funeral I was v v nervous. I knew that someone else had a copy of the speech and was ready to step in. I didn't need them directly, and knowing they were there, helped Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1)
  12. Really important to practice out loud, as you would on the day - Janet Webb (@JWebbConsulting)
  13. When I did a best man's speech, I cheated and did it all as a rhyme so nobody cared that I was reading it verbatim - Anthony Williams (@bullsboy)
  14. Keep it short; and if you are emotional, they’ll love it, and you, even more - Sarah Storm (@_sarahsto_)

Thanks to everyone for their contributions.

So finally, my invitation to you - what else have we missed, or advice would you like to share? Please comment. Equally, if you find this list useful, or that it could be useful to someone else, please feel free to keep and /or pass it on.

I will pass on - and discuss - all these suggestions with my pal. Hopefully some, if not all will resonate for him. Unfortunately, I won't be there to witness and support him at his daughter's wedding, as we will be abroad at a family wedding ourselves that same week! So this is my gift to him.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Generally Curious

Yesterday, I downloaded Don Taylor's (@DonaldHTaylor) Global Sentiment Survey 2018 report, the results of his annual survey based around one single question, "What do you think will be hot in L&D next year?". It was really interesting to see the "What will be hot?" trends rising, falling or lingering in the rankings over the last four years, with #AI (Artificial Intelligence) being the fastest riser from previous years.

This didn't come as a great surprise to me and, the more I read through the report, the less surprised I was by the rest of the general findings. And I got to wondering why that might be.

The answer seemed to lie in the fact that I keep my eyes open and my ears attuned to what's going on in Learning and Development, Learning Technologies, HR and business, partly because that's my professional arena, but it's also because I am genuinely interested in, and want to know more about this stuff for myself as much as for any current or future clients.

And I'm nosy! But I'm a nosy Generalist. Not just in work, but in life. My 'strapline' in my social media and professional profiles, and indeed, in the title of this blog, is 'I know a little about a lot and a lot about very little'. It's become my Personal Brand. And it reflects my curiosity, my inquisitiveness, my need to maintain and update a personal knowledge bank to enable me to function as a contributing member of the human race, as much as in my professional arena. I read; I watch and listen to the News; I listen to podcasts when I can, I talk to colleagues, friends, acquaintances in social media and in my face-to-face social and professional networks.

So, I wasn't overly surprised about AI being such a high flyer in Don's report, because I've been paying attention. People I follow - in the L&D, HR and Tech arena, but also in the 'real world', the Press, broadcasters, social media, general population and my friends are also seemingly discussing the opportunities and threats of automation and artificial intelligence. I got an Amazon Echo, precisely because I wanted to understand it's capabilities and relevance for both my own professional and personal knowledge.  (So far, it's made shopping easier and it's good source of music and, in my view, it may be artificial, but it ain't yet intelligent!). Now, if someone were to ask me about AI, at least I have an informed opinion. At least I can enter into a discussion about it from a reasonably well-informed position and we can have a good chat about it. Or I can connect them to other people in my network who have more specialist knowledge and experience than I.

And this goes to the heart of my thinking, and my question to you - Are you a Generalist or a Specialist? Do you Look Up from your own safe, 'specialist' position at work or in life, peer over the top of your life/work silo and sniff the air around you? Do you know what's going on in 'the real world'? And are you able to translate that back and connect it into your own life & work and that of others around you? Because nowadays, we need to be able to do just that.

We need to be nosy, inquisitive, curious, interested (and interesting), because we live in interesting times - dynamic, fast-changing, inter-connected, scary times. We need to have the skills to be able to challenge received information, to not accept things at face value, to probe, to explore. We need to build the resilience, attitude and skills that will enable us to flex, adapt, change direction, and/or alter our very behaviours. Again. And again. 

I see many nowadays with a hardening narrowness of view, no peripheral vision, an inability to connect the apparently unconnected, lacking the skills to recognise the impacts of one thing on another and who, consequently, are unable to see and prepare for what may lie ahead. I see it in both my professional and my personal life. And it worries me.

The world is changing. Life is changing. Work is changing. #LookUp!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Full Circle

As Xmas approaches and I have reached the end of my first term teaching part-time at our local college, I am reflecting on circularity. 

41 years ago, in the summer of 1976, I graduated from Drama School in Edinburgh and immediately started a post-graduate Teacher Training Diploma at Moray House School of Education. I lasted the first term. I dropped out.

Not yet 21, and within the first two weeks of that first term, I had found myself out in a school on teaching practice - a mere three years older than my oldest pupils. I quickly realised that I'd had very little life experience, hadn't travelled, had never performed professionally in theatre or television and now stood at the threshold of the rest of my life as a Drama Teacher - potentially spending from age 5 to age 65 in some kind of educational or school-related activity - and with no sense of myself as a rounded, experienced and credible performer or teacher.

So I stepped away, the first time in my life that I followed my gut (my heart?) and instead, I found a job with a lighting supplier, working in their retail lighting shop, delivering and installing theatrical lighting, and occasionally operating the follow-spots at the Usher Hall or the Lyceum Theatre. Within a year, I and several other ex-drama school colleagues started a touring community theatre company in rural Dumfrieshire, thereby earning my Equity (Actors' Union) Card and so becoming a professional actor for another 12 years.

The story of that 12 years is perhaps for another time, as, unsurprisingly, acting proved to be too precarious and unreliable a profession to guarantee a regular income. A move into IT Training, own business, followed by Training Management, then HR & Learning Technologies management in both public and private sectors, illness and redundancy, brings us up to date and to my current part time role our local college, assessing and tutoring Digital Marketing Apprentices.

And so, I'm teaching again.

Proper teaching, but this time as the rounded, experienced and credible professional that I knew I wasn't back then. It's been - and continues to be - a journey, where every day is, and has been, a school day. As I say in my social media profiles, I know a little about a lot and a lot about very little. What I don't know, I either learn by making my own mistakes, or I rely on others to teach me - from their experience and from the multitude of different sources we all have available to us via digital channels.

The experience of visiting my Apprentices in their different workplaces, assessing their Diploma work in the context of their employer organisations, has been fascinating and enlightening. By getting them to research and share their findings in the classroom and in our Google+ Education Community, we all learn from each other. Just this week, I brought social learning into the mix, when I co-hosted a Twitter tweetchat about social media for business and marketing, with Mike Osborne (@MikeOzzy), others from my online personal learning network and my classroomful of young digital marketing apprentices.  Learning by doing, by participating, by sharing.
It's a richer and more rewarding kind of teaching than I ever envisaged when I set out into the world of work 41 years ago. What goes around comes around. Circle closed.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Labels and Learning

Friday 24/11/17. This morning's #LDinsight tweetchat hosted by @LnDConnect started by posing the question "How can we use game mechanics in the design of learning solutions?". The resulting conversation was a delight, exemplifying for me the value of participating in such online discussions. 

Much of the conversation revolved around the terminology used in the initial question and the subsequent explanations and expansion of meaning and context from some of the more knowledgeable practitioners, matched equally by initial professions of ignorance and/or confusion about the terminology and language used, by many other participants.

I fell between the two, as usual. I am naturally curious about a lot of developments, techniques and tools in learning & development and learning technologies. But, as I say in my social media profiles, I know a little about a lot and a lot about very little. I have an awareness and a basic understanding about much of this stuff and good, practical, experiential knowledge and understanding of others. With 30 years' experience in training, L&D, Learning Technologies and HR, I am also able to reflect on that past experience, to look for relevance, context and examples and to share that information in the forum, hopefully in a relevant and helpful way.

Frequently, my examples will come from the days before the term was ever used in training. They were just things that I or others did as part of our practice, as indeed, is still the case nowadays. We didn't have a name for them then. What we have now are labels. And how we love our labels.

Labels have their uses. They help to encapsulate or headline detailed concepts, processes or procedures. They tend to be well understood by those who work in that particular field but are equally open to misinterpretation or regarded as excluding by those not in that particular cognoscenti.

But, as I said at the start of this piece, this morning's tweetchat was a delight. The game mechanic 'experts' were generous in sharing their knowledge, in breaking down the underpinning facts, in providing sources and links to further information and in acknowledging and honouring the queries, challenges, suggestions and examples from the 'non-experts' in the chat. The cross-sectoral and cross-functional perspectives brought into the conversation from all sides just added to to and enriched the conversation. 

Learning happened. 

This is the stuff you miss if you don't participate in professional tweetchats!

Thanks to @LnDconnect, who organise these weekly #LDinsight tweetchats, and to all the participants and contributors who make my Friday mornings sizzle.

PS: You'll get the full content of the discussion and the detailed learning points in the follow-up curated Storify, or go to Twitter now and search for the hashtag #LDinsight.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Why I didn't attend 'The Modern Learner' Fishbowl

Inspired by @ lightbulbJo's earlier blog (here), summarising this morning's #PSKevents #fishbowl session on 'the modern learner', here are my very quick reflections, starting with why I wasn't in the room in the first place.

I had booked and paid for this session several weeks ago, on the basis of the quality of the 'panel', each one being an L&D/OD/HR thinker and practitioner who I respect and with whom I often interact. Having only participated in conversations using the fishbowl format a couple of times before, I was keen to see how the 'big beasts' would use the format to engage and interact with an audience who had made the effort to be there for 08:00 on a work day in London.

So, why didn't I attend in person?

Regular readers will be aware of my heart surgery, recovery & redundancy a couple of years ago. Until that point, I was a London commuter from the Sussex coast, something I had been doing for ten years. One of the legacies of those times and my surgery/recovery is that I have become anxious when I have to travel during rush hour. I won't go into the symptoms but suffice to say it's not something I enjoy, and when I do have to to be in London or non-local environments nowadays, I try to structure my time such that I can avoid 'peak time'.

Last night, I started planning my travel to the West End of London for an 08:00 start, and my heart (literally) sank! I'd have needed to get up at 04:45  change trains twice and arrive at Victoria earlier than I needed to, to then get the tube (two more changes) to get me to the venue. In the old days, I would not have given this a second thought. Indeed, I might even have relished the challenge and been looking forward to a well-earned survivor's coffee before the event.

But I've learned to listen to my body and my feelings now in a way I never used to. I started to get anxious and uncomfortable about the travelling  and that began to outweigh the benefits of being present in the room. So I decided not to attend.

But I did! After a good night's sleep, untroubled by commuter worry, I was up at 07:30 and online on Twitter at 08:00, tea in hand,  following the #hashtag for the event. Jo's summary neatly encapsulates the richness of the conversation, both within the venue and from the speakers, but also on the backchannel with those who, like me, weren't able to attend but who wanted to listen, comment, engage and generally be part of the discussion. We had a grand time, and I avoided the stress of getting there in the first place - almost like 'a modern learner', you might say...!

So, with some sterling tweet work and a couple of #Pericopes from Ger Driesen (@GerDriesen), Kim Edwards (@ KimSEdwards_) and Christine Locher (@ ChristineLocher) and indeed, Jo herself, stuck on a train and unable to get to the event as a result (@ LightbulbJob), I was fully engaged and able to participate in what proved to be a rich conversational and learning seam. Thanks to all.

A final point. The organisers and participants seemed to forget about the backchannel after a while and as the event came to a conclusion, which I assume it did, with (hopefully) some wise words summarising the conversation in the room, some takeaways and some thanks, it was left to us 'onliners' to draw our own conclusions.
This was a missed opportunity by the organisers, I'd suggest, and maybe something to think about when arranging future such events. For an event which was tackling 'the modern learner', better backchannel facilitation and inclusion would have been really 'walking the talk'.

Monday, 7 August 2017


I just came across this in my Evernote unpublished 'blog ideas' page. Seems I was in a bit of a tizz and inadvertently did some #wildwriting. Excuse the implied language, won't you?

Maybe we should all just stop theorising, justifying, analysing & talking about it & just ******* get on with it. It's stuff. Just do the stuff! If it works, great! If it doesn't, learn from it, try it again differently and move on. Tell or show others. Ask them what they do/have done. Learn from that if it's useful or relevant and then do it yourself, or not, if it wasn't. Or look it up and then do it. #RTFM. And do that every time you need to remind yourself how to do it. Make stuff happen. #JFDI.

Nothing to add really.


Friday, 14 July 2017

Coming Up For Air

Quick one...
Sometimes we're so busy, our heads down, focused solely on the task or tasks in hand, that we forget to look up. Like people learning to snorkle dive in the sea, paddling furiously, breathing heavily as we try to balance ourselves between the world above water and the world below, whilst trying to keep ourselves afloat.  Exhausting ourselves; wearing ourselves out.

So, when we do finally lift our heads, we are surprised at how far we've come, how far away from the the safety of the shore we have taken ourselves. And what little time we have allowed ourselves to recover, just float and then gently paddle back - before we need to set off once again, heads down, vision blurred and sucking precious air down the snorkle tube for dear life. 
Each time taking ourselves that little bit further out, and further away from the beach.

Sound familiar?

#LookUp before it's too late.