When We Were Wonderful.

No answers. No suggestions. No advice.

With the ongoing deadly attacks from ISIS, (the horror in Mali is unfolding as I type), today I offer only a few heart breaking observations and questions.

When did the men who are steering this barbarity become so filled with hate?  So cruel? As my seven-year-old daughter, Lulu, asked me, “Why do they like being mean?”

Over the weekend, she and I took the train to Dublin.  An early celebration for her birthday later this month.

We arrived at our hotel Friday evening and squeezed in a mommy-daughter swim before they closed the pool.  We were warm and dry in our fleece jammies when room service arrived – plus a special ice cream with a candle in it for the almost-birthday girl.  And then the news of the Paris attacks also arrived via the TV.

“Turn it off, Mammy,” Lulu said, using the sweet Irish version of my title. “I don’t want to spoil our dinner.”

She wasn’t being insensitive. She’s too young. Too in the moment of her own happiness.  Obviously, turning it off doesn’t make it go away.  Those precious innocent lives that were cut down have been gone a week now.  And they’re never coming back.  And neither are those from Beirut, from the Russian plane crash, from Syria, from the many other bombings, the beheadings. The grisly list goes on and on…

The next morning, when I came out from the shower, Lulu had drawn me a picture in pencil on the hotel stationery.  Along with the clouds and the lead grey rainbow were the following words of promise:

I love you Mammy, and I’ll try my best to be wonderful.”


Her endearing note and the dreadful attacks have nothing in common, really. And yet it made me pause.  When do young children whose hearts are naturally filled with joy and play and dreams - children who want to be wonderful – turn into angry, resentful, and terrible adults?

It may be younger than you think.  Some psychologists point to nine as the pivotal year for the onset of typical adolescent rebellion. Other studies show children may experience so-called “conduct disorders” exhibiting a severe lack of empathy or caring for others much younger.

And, according to reports, ISIS is capitalizing on this.  The Guardian, this week, excerpted from the ISIS manifesto or playbook stating,

Capture the rebelliousness of youth, their energy and idealism, and their readiness for self-sacrifice, while fools preach ‘moderation’ (wasatiyyah), security and avoidance of risk.”

National Public Radio, just yesterday, ran a story from Afghanistan which told of a school run by the Islamic State. There they were, teaching students words like Jihad, Kalashnikov and Infidel.  Doing show and tell with a machine gun. Watching videos of the atrocities they’ve committed. Indoctrinating children (only the little boys, actually) as young as three. Three?!?

I am saddened by the horrors ISIS is inflicting through its wanton attacks.

I am also saddened by the horror they are teaching and spreading. ISIS: Stealing children’s wonder. Their desire to be wonderful.   And replacing it with fervent hate for people they have never met.

Somebody cue Louis Armstrong please!


Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 





How to be funny in a presentation when you're not a comedian!

I will be giving the closing keynote at a tech conference in London next week.

And I only know one joke.  Which goes like this:

"So these Wild West cowboys are sitting huddled around their campfire out on the prairie late one night when off in the distance they hear the distinct 'Bum-bum-BUM-bum, bum-bum-BUM-bum' of tribal drums.

'Oh no!,' says one of the cowboys to the group, 'I don't like the sound of them drums.'

'Sorry!' yells a voice way off in the distance, 'It's not our regular drummer!' "


Okay.  That's it.  Maybe because I have this image of Animal, or it reminds me of some sort of thing the guys from Spinal Tap might say, or because of my own frustrated air-guitar rocker tendencies, but I love it.

And I'm smart enough to know that practically no one else does.  Which is why I have never tried to shoe-horn it in during a keynote, presentation or speech.

However, the notion of humor is one that always comes up when I consult with executives on their presentations and communications styles.  "How do I be funny?" they ask.

As humans, we're social animals. We like to share a laugh.

That's especially true during a speech or presentation.   We may have to sit there because it's part of our job or the conference we're attending, but we're hoping that the presenter will exhibit some sort of human connection.

If it were only about the information, then why not simply write it and hit the 'send' button?

There are as many different types of humor as there are of personality types. Here are a few of my tips:

1. Know yourself.  If you don't tell jokes well during your personal life, don't try to deliver a joke during a presentation (and you know this from the kind of eye rolls or deafening silence you normally get). What makes your friends laugh? Are you the dry observer?  Ironic?  Silly? Go with that.  A bit. Remember, a little goes a long way in the presenting context.

2. A personal story is usually better than a joke.  Think of something that relates back to your point. Maybe something from your childhood. Telling an anecdote that comes from the heart and really happened to you is likely going to resonate better than some contrived joke.

3. React in the moment.  Ad-lib on the meeting so far, the curtains, the weather, the food.  As long as you're not being too critical or mean-spirited, a quick humorous aside can bring a nice "real" moment to the room.

4. Self-deprecation.  People like successful people who can still poke fun at themselves. But not false modesty. That's bending backward too hard.

Any time you speak before an audience - be it a smallish regular meeting or a more formal event - the information you're about to present should take a back seat to the human connection you should endeavor to make.

And, if you're going to be presenting at a drummers convention, do I have the perfect joke for you!  Or maybe not.

Don't try too hard.  You're a human. You're a natural.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

Remembering Arezzo

My Italian loving and blogging friend "Panini Girl" dedicated her post today to me as she spotlighted a Tuscan town we both adore: Arezzo. I share her blog and wonderful photos with you while I thank her for the dedication and thank Arezzo for welcoming us so warmly while Scotty, Lulu and I lived there. Grazie e baci!

Nigeria Diary - The key to success in communication is: Preparation

Today, after I finished swimming my laps in the hotel’s lovely pool here in Lagos, I relaxed by flipping through the pages of this month’s Harvard Business Review.  (What’s your relaxation magazine of choice?)

The pool at my hotel here in Lagos
The pool at my hotel here in Lagos

I usually find all the articles so relevant, but one in particular leaped out of the pages to me.

A great call for communications training in this month's HBR!
A great call for communications training in this month's HBR!

The CEO of Zoetis (which is a recent spin-off of Pfizer, and now the world’s largest animal health company) gives a compelling first-person account of the two-year preparation and intensive training he undertook before he embarked on his top management role.  He paid for a former CEO of a big European company to aggressively mentor him and he paid for two years of communications training.

TWO YEARS OF COMMUNICATIONS TRAINING? Wow. That is real dedication and commitment.  I read further.

Juan Ramòn Alaix was already a successful general manager with Pfizer before being tapped to head the animal health business.  But he was also self-aware enough to recognize that as CEO, he would have even greater responsibility to communicate strategy to the outside world, “including the media, analysts, and investors.”


The many places where strong communications make the difference

Alaix writes that he had to learn to be comfortable and engaging:

  • Giving TV interviews
  • Speaking with the print press
  • Delivering keynote addresses
  • Talking with small groups
  • Meeting one-on-one with key investors
  • Handling earnings calls
  • Responding to key stakeholders Q&A

Getting expert feedback is critical

The communications expert Alaix hired sat in on both smaller meetings and larger town hall meetings - and"provided a lot of feedback."  Feedback that Alaix was eager to accept and apply writing that he was “challenged to think differently.”

Don’t forget Non-Verbal

Alaix also applauded the work the trainer providing by focusing on non-verbal communications, speaking simply about complicated uses and paying attention to pacing while speaking.  All critically important.

Dedicate time to properly prepare

Not only did Alaix spend two years of his life - on top of his regular Pfizer duties - preparing for his upcoming role as the Zoetis CEO, he also testifies to the amount of time he dedicates to prepare for any significant speaking opportunity:

“Before I did my first TV interview.. I spent more than eight hours doing mock interviews… by the time I gave the first road-show pitch to investors, I’d rehearsed it at least 40 times.”

Incredible.  But not surprising.  In today’s global marketplace, where almost anything you say can be instantly online and rewatched a thousand times, to NOT be able to communicate engagingly and effectively is a true liability.

This CEO’s embrace of improving communications makes for a terrific lesson.  No matter where you are in your career, a commitment to improving and polishing your communication skills is key to you and your organization’s continued success.

On Saturday, when I met a group of impressive ladies from Nigeria's WISCAR organization (Women In Successful Careers), I spoke that it is never too soon - or too late - to refine these skills.



So, what are you waiting for?  There is no time to lose.

I am in Lagos, Nigeria with my local partners Amplio Consulting and SwiftThink Limited for the next three weeks - conducting a series of communications training sessions for leading businesses and other organizations.  It is not too late to meet me for a consultation.  Please reach out!

In gratitude,