Welcome to New Zealand’s communication skills blog.

We're passionate about communication and have collected a whole lot of practical ideas and interesting thoughts on the subject. Look through our blog or contact us if you'd like further information on a particular topic.

The key to making a technical presentation more engaging

November 19th, 2013 | by Lee

Last week I was working with a client on a very technical presentation. He  had managed to lift it into something that would really communicate to any interested group, even if they didn’t have his technical background. He’d commented that he’d watched:How great leaders inspire action


The client realised that if he applied Sinek’s principles to any presentation it would lift it into something more special.  The technical content is the ‘what you communicate, the logical explanation is the ‘how’ but the real lift comes from the ‘why’ you are communicating .  So next time you are presenting material that involves reasoning, add in the heart stuff and you will improve it out of all sight.  Get your material together, then check that you have connected through your head, your hands and most importantly, your heart.  Apply a dose of Simon Sinek’s advice and watch your material come to life!

Meetings – Are they a complete waste of time?

November 19th, 2013 | by Janine

I have just returned from a meeting about having a meeting.  How many of you spend an inordinate amount of time during your working day in meetings ?

The first problem is: Why are you there? Often the meeting request is put in your diary (no thanks to technology) and you arrive on time – in my case to find the key people are late, or even more annoying, the meeting  has been ‘rescheduled’.

The next problem that seems to be universal is the purpose of the meeting. What do you hope to achieve from it? This is a special problem if key decision- makers are absent.

Timing is something that seems to escape the consciousness of Chairs and participants. You will be like me and have come across people whose main function is to be present, not offer much, go off on tangents and then start a whole new conversation just as you thought it was time to finish.  Short of screaming, there is not a lot you can do….

Or is there?

Our top tips for successfully surviving meetings are:

  • Ask yourself “Do I need to be there”? Is there another form of getting the information that would be more efficient,  such as a Skype meeting. Can others email me the outcome?
  • As the Chair, always let the participants know what the purpose is and what roles and responsibilities they have.
  • Nominate a timer and have the conclusion time written up where everyone can see it.
  • What outcomes do you want from the meeting? These should be on the agenda which should be sent well in advance.
  • Send out the  minutes/action points as soon as possible following the meeting

In today’s busy world,  a meeting can be either a useful face-to-face experience, or it can be yet another time waster that just leads to frustration.  There are some other useful tips at a website that goes by the memorable name of  The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur



Need some excellent advice on bullying?

November 5th, 2013 | by Lee

On a recent flight I overheard a powerful conversation: Guy in his late forties quite quickly got into a deep conversation with a young teenage boy.  Eventually it came out that the kid was being bullied.  The man shared with him that he had the same experience when he was at school and how tough it was. The two sat in empathetic silence for a bit.  The man talked about  some ways he thinks he could have handled it looking back.  He pointed out that it would end. He also suggested that there’s choice about what to do with that experience in your life  – you can use it for positive or negative purposes. The relief I sensed in the young boy’s voice when he received this compassionate response was proof of the positive choice the guy had chosen.

Despite much greater awareness of the drastic damage created by bullying, there’s certainly still a lot of it about in the workplace, as well as the playground. The ramifications are immense, for the perpetrators as well as the victims. While we assume that bullying at work is from a manager towards a staff member.  Presumably that is the usual direction, but there’s also a surprising amount of bullying of managers by very aggressive staff.

Vital Smarts have a recent post titled: Three’s a Crowd, containing excellent advice on how to intervene when your child is being bullied. There are also very relevant comments on that post (37 at last count!) that add some more valuable ideas. This advice could be applied in adult situations as well as in the playground.

Tips for raising your profile

October 24th, 2013 | by Lee

Question from a current client: How do I raise my profile at work in an informal way? Recent restructuring has meant that all our executive team are based in a different city, including my immediate manager. In the past I’ve built great relationships from casual in-person contact, not from artificially cultivating people. I just don’t blow my own trumpet. Now I have to build those relationships not just for myself but for others, because I am one of the few senior people in our building. 

Here’s a useful slogan: 

‘You can get what you want by helping others get what they want.’

See what you can do by applying that principle, but here are a few suggestions as starters:

  • Work out what the others in your site need by way of interaction with more senior people, figure out with them how it could be achieved and be part of the process of creating it.  Obviously that will help the others in your workplace and you will be seen as pro-active and solution oriented.
  • Create a stimulating sense of group where you are.  You could get together with others to build interactions within your work site such as brown bag lunches, getting senior executives in to speak and social events. This will raise your profile as well as that of your branch.
  • Make your manager look good.  Find out what your manager needs to have happen to look good and make sure you are delivering that from where you are.
  • Tap into the human craving for direct interaction. When you start a new topic of communication with a senior manager, make sure that first conversation about it is voice-to-voice.  You will need to have a routine of being in frequent contact with them and it will mostly have to be by email,  but in person is memorable.  The principle of ‘Don’t start a new thread of conversation by email’ applies to all your contacts, but will be very important in this contex
  • Be part of supporting others in your profession.  Join the local branch of your professional association and take a committee role in that.  You will then be part of supporting others in your profession and will develop a higher profile for yourself.   A plus of New Zealand’s small population is that a strong  local profile will be noticed nationally as well.

There are some practical tips at How to raise your visibility at work and some broader approaches at: How to increase your visibility at work



How much do we really want to change

October 15th, 2013 | by Lee

I attended some Rotary leadership training yesterday and experienced a very powerful exercise relating to the difficulty of personal change.  In the photo it looks like a strange seance. Maybe it was!  It was so hard to do, I wondered if there were some some supernatural forces at work.      


  • You can see in the photo a long piece of dowel, flat on one side.
  • Each pair had to poke out their index fingers, shot gun style.  Then they had to align them with the opposite person’s index fingers, one inside the other.  The dowel was placed on top.
  • The rule: Everyone’s index fingers must have the dowel resting on them all the time.
  •  The task: Lower the dowel as a team. (Talk about easy!)
I took the photo while I was watching this other team fail completely at the task.  ‘Heavens’, I thought.  ‘What a bunch of klutzes!’
But when it came to my turn, we could not get that dowel to lower!
On the one hand the group knew we had to lower it, so we tried bending our knees. Unfortunately, each individual team member knew they had to keep their index fingers touching the dowel, so each of us must have lightly pressed up on the dowel to achieve that. That darn piece of dowel kept going up and up and up, no matter how hard we tried to lower it.
‘Leadership’, I thought. ‘Okay, on a count of three, we will all bend our knees and lower it that way! One, two, three, bend!’… Darn thing went up.
After multiple tries, the best we managed was that one end lurched way down and the other lifted way up!
Don’t you think change is like that? We  know we need to alter some habit, but we keep sliding back into touching the easy emotional dowel of our old behaviour.
We might be told that our team behaviour has to change and we know that.  But each one of us isn’t truly committed to that because we just relax back into our usual ways.  In umpteen small lapses the change becomes more and more remote.

How to stop pressing back up into past ways of doing things?  There are some good personal tips here at: 12 Tips for Creating Lasting Change and an interesting piece on reducing resistance to change  among your employees at: Change Management Coach

I still can’t believe how hard that exercise was!


Great talk on presenting technical stuff to non-technical people

October 1st, 2013 | by Lee

Jean-luc Dumont presents a very useful lecture on Communicating Science to Non-scientists.  It applies equally well to technical non-science material and is worth the 1 hour listen. My stimulating friend Lesley Moffatt sent me the link because we are both involved in the Rotary Club of Wellington Eureka Science Communicators awards

Mindfulness and being present

August 28th, 2013 | by Janine

A podcast today  reminded me about the need for all of us to sometimes take time to smell cialis pills the roses.

For example, before an important meeting or a presentation we think we are focusing on what we need to d,o but often all that is happening is worry. We are concerned about how the meeting will go; will our message be understood; will we make the impact we want to.  All of this worry adds to our anxiety and stress. It can lead to ‘catastrophising’.

What we need to do is refocus our thinking on being more present. We can use our senses to take 5-10 minutes to relax. For example, go outside and feel the sun (or wind!) on your face . Use your senses to be aware of your surroundings. You can practice at home while doing chores or on your way to work. In Wellington, New Zealand it is the beginning of Spring and the Tui are singing their hearts out as I walk down the road to work. Such joy in the present moment.

More and more research studies show that  being mindful can make a difference in improving our sleep. It may even stimulate brain connections and  growth of new neural connections.

Mindfulness helps executive functioning skills such as decision making and memory.  Elizabeth Blackburn’s research into the impact of mindfulness  suggests that in pre- and post- menopausal women it can increase DNA repair.

So the challenge is to ensure that when you are focusing, you are thinking positive thoughts rather than worrying. Become adept at being present for at least five minutes a day and you will be thrilled with the results. You will feel great and may find you get fewer minor ailments such as colds.

Dealing to your self doubt

August 27th, 2013 | by Lee

Some years ago I led a self-confidence workshop as part of a weekend leadership programme. One of the guys on the programme stood out as confident, good at sport, good personality and, yes, a hunk too!  I was stunned when he told me that his self-confidence wasn’t good and he really needed to work on it.  The incident made me realise that often people who seem confident are probably still experiencing self-doubt.

I’ve been thinking about this because I am finishing up a year’s coaching as part of the coaching panel for an excellent women in leadership programme.  As my clients look back, it is interesting how often these very able women were grappling with self-doubt. Many of them gained a lot from realising that others in the programme experienced the same doubts.

What are some solutions to the problem?

An older and very successful friend once told me that his approach was to: ‘Take a big bite and just keep chewing’.  That fits with Maggie Thatcher’s comment that she wasn’t born strong, she just became strong.

There’s an article by Agapi Stassinoapoulos in that great resource – The Huffington Post taking a constructive angle on the challenge: Notice self-doubt in other people  and ask them how you can support them.

While you’re in the Huffington Post, you might want to look at the article with the wonderful title: Do we ever get over self-doubt? I used to doubt it, but now I’m getting over it!