Three thoughts on distractions to help us better focus!

This is the track I am speaking of - but today it was not nearly as sunny! ;)
This is Cork Ireland's Mardyke Arena track I am speaking of - but today it was not nearly as sunny! ;)

Two women were on the outdoor track this morning.  One, wearing a knit cap for extra warmth, had her head slightly lowered and was jogging at a steady pace.  The other in a yellow wind-breaker and no hat, was briskly walking with her head held up, and carried a paper COFFEE CUP in her right hand.

jog

I immediately wondered at the second woman’s choice to walk on the track – while also sipping a coffee. How much was she focusing on her decision to exercise?  And really, how effective did she expect to be at the task at hand?

Of course you could argue it was better than nothing.  At least she wasn’t sitting in front of the TV sipping her coffee.

But she could’ve easily done even better.  That’s the problem with any distraction, isn’t it?  When we don’t focus our attention solely on the effort  before us, we will likely not be as successful at it.

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  1.  As the number of attention-demanding tasks we attempt to do at the same time go up, the effectiveness of our brain to manage them goes down.

Many of us, myself included, may have considered ourselves good “multi-taskers.”  We seldom complete one task before moving on to the next one on our list. Instead, our workspace is littered with a variety of “ongoing” projects that get pushed aside as we take a ‘quick’ call,  check our email in-box, Instagram, Facebook or whatever.  Some projects may be better if you step away and take a break before reviewing, etc. But others need continued attention and focus in order to be completed in a timely manner.

We have limited brain capacity to focus.  Think about that the next time you’re working on a project or the next time you phone and drive. Even hands free.  In spite of what you may think, studies show they’re no safer than hand-held. We’re still distracted.

  1. Consider making to do lists in order of “attention-demanding” priority. Allot specific times to specific tasks.

When preparing for a presentation, for example, if you carve out an hour for research, commit to making the full hour only about research.  If you let distractions creep in, the hour will still pass by, but your research results won’t reflect it.

  1. Get rid of distractions when meeting with colleagues, friends, and loved ones.

I sat recently in a café and watched a couple sitting together at a table.  Although they were side by side, they spoke not a word, but kept their faces buried in their phones.  How many times have you met with a colleague who sits behind his or her desk and continues to check their computer?  How about meetings or presentations where laptops and tablets are clearly in play.  Putting aside such things for others shows respect and recognizes the value of everyone’s time.

It takes discipline to be methodological but time that is not managed, is often time that is wasted.

The one thing that money cannot buy is effective use of time.  Get rid of distractions and make every second count.

So the next time you’re on the race track, put down that coffee cup and get going!

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

 

 

 

 


Top 10 ways to put aside business and jump into Christmas – if only for two days!  

I am standing in one of those amorphous “chat circles” at a cocktail reception when a well-known phone-industry executive departs from our group announcing, “Well, I’ve got to get back to the office. Lots of work to do!”

It is already going on nine o’clock and while Mr. Businessman may indeed have some unusually important project to attend, more likely he is telling us this to illustrate what how essential he is at his place of employment.

Then there is the time I am supposed to be having a friendly coffee with a girlfriend.  During the course of our hour-long sit-down, she takes three phone calls and responds to two texts.  In fact, she never puts down her phone; she sips cappuccino from the left hand while she concentrates on the screen held in her right.

This morning, then, I felt a twinge of guilt as I watch my husband and daughter scamper out the front door to scoop up a final few gifts and soak-up holiday atmosphere in our festive downtown. I am staying at home for a Skype session with a client who wants to rehearse his message for an upcoming interview for a new prestigious position.  His interview will be held later today.  Just two days away from Christmas.

Yes, work must get done. And there's no doubt we will all achieve more success if we’re very accessible and responsive to whomever our clients and customers may be.

Real Wealth is discretionary time.

But, as the self-described “Contrarian Consultant,” Alan Weiss aptly states, “Real wealth is discretionary time.”   So, I for one, am pledging here and now to officially take a two-day holiday break from work.

Here are my top-ten pledges.  Pledge along with me for whichever of these strike your fancy – as, of course, applied to your own unique family/friends/holiday experience!

  1. I am not going into the office
  2. Unless there’s an extreme emergency, I am also not going to take any calls from the office
  3. I not going to waste any time on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Linked In (that doesn’t mean I/you won’t post your awesome Christmas Eve or Christmas Day feasts photos, but you don’t have to spend 10 minutes poring over everyone else’s until Friday, right!)
  4. I am going to bake more cookies with my child(ren)
  5. I am going to happily tipple a little more mulled wine with my husband (spouse, partner, buddy) - but not drink and drive
  6. I am going to sit and really pay rapt attention to: The Nutcracker, The Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppets Christmas Carol or (fill in the blank)
  7. I am going to call a loved one I can’t visit on Christmas
  8. I am going to actually listen to my great auntie give me the “who’s died or is ill among our distant relatives I never heard of” update
  9. I am going to eat whatever I want for two days and not lament audibly for all to hear about how much I regret that I just over-indulged
  10. I am going to play a board game completely to the end and try to enjoy it

No matter whether you are a CEO or a junior sales associate, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be fully present during this joyous time.

Here's my daughter Lulu - hoping your Christmas is over the moon!
Here's my daughter Lulu - hoping your Christmas is over the moon!

Merry Christmas, everyone. Here’s to a productive, prosperous New Year – in which we carve out much-needed and deserved discretionary time!

Cheers,

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.


How Persistent Are You? Three lessons from an immigrant.

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How are you wrapping up the year?  Buried under a mountain of Q4 spreadsheets?  Take a quick trip to Ireland with me and get a few handy managing tips on the way!

My husband and I are in line at Immigration.  In front of us is a girl from New Zealand who has been accepted to medical school here in Cork, Ireland.   Behind us is a man from India who works for the Apple offices just outside of town.

It’s a little after 1PM, and although the windows won’t re-open until 2PM, there is already a long queue.   My line-mates and I are near the front of the line. We were prepared and got here early.  We know the drill because each of us have stood in this line before.

We’re  in Ireland because my husband is enrolled in a PhD program at University College Cork.   To be legal, we must file the proper paperwork with Immigration at the Garda (police) station.   Each previous occasion, the Immigration Officer has politely but pointedly turned us away.  This is our third time in the line.

The first time we didn’t show proper proof of financial independence.  We had brought our American bank account statement thinking it would suffice.  But the officer informed us the money needs to be deposited in an Irish account instead.

Like having money in a national bank, many of the hurdles put before us make sense logically, but strain us emotionally as we must reprioritized other obligations and spend the inordinate amount of time needed to clear them. Throughout this process, I am reminded of three important lessons in persistence.

  1. Keep Your Cool. It took us one full week and more than a handful of daily phone calls to assorted customer service representatives to find a way to transfer the large amount required from Bank of America to the Bank of Ireland without incurring outrageous transfer fees.  Each rep seemed to have his or her own set of knowledge about what options, or lack thereof, were at our disposal.  At one point, a representative told me it would be impossible to transfer our own money from our account without being in the US to do so.  It was also maddening to be forced through seemingly endless automated phone-tree systems “press option 406 for international banking services…” while watching the sands of your Irish cell phone’s minutes go ticking away.  Yes, I confess,  I lost my temper at more than one point.  Thankfully my husband pointed out we could buy credit on Skype and make the calls for a fraction of the cost.  Ultimately, with 40-minutes of help from a tech bank representative and my husband’s best friend who lives in Portland, we secured the transfer.
  1. Never Assume. The second time we stood in the line, armed with our now fattened Bank of Ireland statement, we thought we were ready. However, we had apparently filled-out a wrong form (they wouldn’t give us the proper one there. We had to get it directly from the university).  Our still very polite Immigration Officer also did not think our health insurance qualified.  Yikes! We assumed the girl at the university’s graduate counter had handed over the proper forms.  And we just assumed our chosen insurance-provider would be qualified. But we hadn’t asked direct questions needed to get reassurance. We had  And, no, I’m not going to tell you what happens when you do that. ;) 
  1. Have A Trusted Partner.  Depending on your situation, these hurdles may not seem too overwhelming to you, but there were many times I felt like tossing up my hands and giving up.  We’ll just be undocumented!  No problem!  Fortunately, when I got fed-up making calls, my husband stepped in. When he didn’t feel like dealing with the Irish health insurance company, I did it.  Turns out they did qualify. Encouraging each other made a lot of the difference in completing what then seemed like an insurmountable mountain of paperwork.

So, there you have it! A few quick reminders and tips to help you keep on hanging on and hanging in with that BIG project you have looming before you!

With our daughter Lulu this weekend at her first birthday party in Ireland -  after we managed successfully through immigration! Look at our smiles! :)
With our daughter Lulu this weekend at her first birthday party in Ireland - after we managed successfully through immigration! Look at our smiles! :)

As for us, the third time was a charm.  We stepped up to the window and were met by that same polite officer.  She approved our documents, typed in our information and snapped our photos.  We can pick up our official legal Irish immigrant cards next week.   Of course, it means we’ll have to stand in line again.

But that’s okay!

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.


Kim Kardashian’s Bum

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Ah, the power of a headline.

Ms. Kardashian,  that (er, what to call her?)  - “ubiquitous media-personality” - was a hot topic on this morning’s radio talk-shows here in Ireland – and likely all over the Western world – due to a new photo shoot for New York magazine Paper in which she bares her ample backside – and more.

The images, just released yesterday, have already launched a  sturdy stream of internet memes with people parodying and er, cracking wise about her posterior posing.

After all the photos of this woman's bum since she first launched onto the scene with her sex-tape back in 2007, why, oh why, seven years later, would another round of nude photos garner more than a collective shoulder shrug? As the radio DJ asked this morning,

Why is this woman famous and why is she in my life?

But instead of pondering that question a moment longer -  which of course, can be answered simply as “duh, sex sells,” I’d like to examine some headline writing tips that can be gleaned from all this silliness.

  1. Pique your readers’ curiosity – Admit it, you were curious about those dang photos. Maybe you indulged fully.  Maybe you completely resisted. Maybe you quickly peeked because you were piqued. Writing a headline that makes readers curious to learn more and turn to you for answers or insight, is a great way to build an audience.
  2. Link your cause to a celebrity or a news item- Obviously, you don’t have to always link your relevance to someone who is more famous than you (as I shamelessly have),  but I can tell you this week alone I saw more than a dozen writers referencing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to wear the same clothes every day as a launching point for their own observations.  In campaigning, we call this finding a solid “third party advocate” – someone who supports your message and is highly visible.  In the same vein, linking your point to a current hot news event or topic is common sense – but too often a missed opportunity.  
  3. Be emotional and/or fun – Most of us will welcome a quick read if it appeals to us emotionally. Take here, for example: For a few moments today, you got to shake your head, roll your eyes and think about the silliness of Ms. Kardashian’s photo shoot.  And you got a few headline writing reminders along the way.  Not bad.

Yesterday, one of my clients, who has been closely monitoring the analytics of his recently-launched blog, remarked that he sees massive upswings in the number of hits he receives depending on the style of headline he writes.

So, whether you’re writing blogs, white papers or even preparing a presentation – where “headlining”  will become part of your introduction – spend time strategizing about crafting an engaging beginning.  A dynamic headline is what compels your audience to  sit up, pay attention and take interest in what lies ahead.  Or, as in Ms. Kardashian’s case, what lies behind.

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 


Blarney, not Baloney: Communication Lessons from Kissing the Blarney Stone

Yesterday, my husband and our six-year-old daughter, Lulu visited Blarney Castle – just a few minutes’ drive from our newly adopted home of Cork, Ireland.

We "Heart" Blarney Castle!
We "Heart" Blarney Castle!

In case you have been living under a rock and don’t already know, the 600-year-old fortress is famous for a particular piece of carboniferous limestone with the legendary power to instill the communicative gift of Blarney upon anyone who kisses it.  Blarney, as defined in humorous postings in and around the castle, is very distinct from Baloney.

To reach the stone in question, you must first climb 110 narrow, slippery-from-Ireland’s-perpetual-autumn-mist stone stairs to the top of the castle tower.

Yes, you have to climb to the  tippy top!
Yes, you have to climb to the tippity top!

Baloney is “praise so thick, it cannot be true.”

While Blarney is said to be  “flattery so thin, we love it.”

Once you reach the top, you then must turn and face away from the parapet and kneel backwards looking out high above the green rolling hills of the valley.  Next, begin to stretch your body – almost back-bend-style - against the castle wall.

Baloney, they say, is telling a 50-year-old woman she looks 18.

But Blarney is asking an older woman how old she may be, because, as you tell her, you want to know at what age women are most beautiful.

A friendly Irishman (yes, that’s redundant) named Dennis helped us put one hand on each of the two metal support rails to steady ourselves as we  stretched our heads downward to the extremely difficult to reach gift-giving stone  - and smooched away.

PicMonkey Collage
Various Blarney Stone kissing contortionists

Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses, he never misses to grow eloquent; ‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber or become a member of Parliament, a noble spouter he’ll sure turn out. " - Francis Sylvester Mahony

Perhaps our new words will be a bit smooth, but they will also be words that are kind and caring designed to bring a smile to our listeners’ faces and leave them feeling more valuable and valued than when we first began.  Nothing wrong with that.  It reminds me of another lovely sentiment I have also heard from my new Irish friends:

It costs nothing to be kind.

Whew.  So, the perilous gymnastics required to kiss the Blarney stone were well-worth it.

Except for our six-year-old.  Lulu said she already knows how to talk a lot and will kiss it another time. Truer words may never have been spoken. And that’s no blarney.

sharper
Here's looking at you from Blarney Castle!

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.


Storytelling. It's not just for bedtime!

book.

Lulu, our six-year-old daughter, loves bedtime. Unusual for a kid? Not at all. Because, for Lulu, bedtime is also story-time. Lulu loves stories.

Right now, we are reading Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. He and his baby foxes are tunneling toward Farmer Boggis’ Chicken House Number One. When she was a toddler, she adored Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad are Friends. The classics endure!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWWIP5scS80

As a business professional, classic storytelling should become your love too.

Whether you think of them as illustrations, anecdotes or analogies, they are all variations of story-telling which you should use to bring any presentation's theme or point to life. Stories are memorable. They trigger your audience's brain to remember the points connected to it.

Here are some of my story-telling tips!

1. Have a solid beginning, middle and end. Sounds obvious, but be clear. These are mini presentations inside your larger presentation.

2, Be descriptive. Colorfully and powerfully describe the scene. Was it raining? What were the emotion happening? Use action-packed words. For example, why "run" when you can "charge" or "scurry" or "lope"?

3. Include conflict and resolution. What was the problem or the challenge? What happened?

4. What's the lesson for your audience? You likely learned something from your story, but make sure and connect the lesson out to your audience too. Never forget what's in it for them!

Magic illusionist designer Jim Steinmeyer, in his essay Conjuring Takes a Bow,implores performers to always:

Start with a plot…it may seem daunting to you.. so 'Theater 101’ but there’s nothing pretentious about it. Jokes have plots. Songs have plots. Listen to the lyrics of a good song, and you’ll find that it has a premise, development and a resolution.”

So, too, should your story. Remember, every good presentation is a performance. Any point or fact you make can be illustrated, strengthened and reinforced by a personal story.

Make it captivating, colorful and compelling and your audience will love you for it.


Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.


Nigerian Diary: Leaving Lagos!

I sit in my hotel room with my bags all packed.  This improbable trip to Nigeria, born two years ago through a Tweet and a big dream from a remarkable Nigerian businessman named Ayo Owodunni, has come to a successful close.

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The Find Your Edge Dream Team!

He and fellow visionary businessman, Ayoola Jolayemi, their wives, the amazing support team of Ayoola's company, SwiftThink, the indomitable Richmond Dayo Johnson, and many others all helped to make this project such a resounding success.

We all believe that Mastering our ABC’s (Appearance, Behavior and Communication)  goes a long way to making a difference in our personal and professional lives  - and the world around us.

The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session.  A+ !!
The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session. A+ !!

Over the past six weeks, our Find Your Edge programs have brought communications training sessions and workshops to businesses, organizations and students.

Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.
Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.

And last night, two of SwiftThink’s best and brightest, Tope and Ibukun, treated me to a special night out on the town.

All work and no play...
All work and no play...

Without any instructional slide shows, white boards or case studies, we danced, laughed and sang at Isaac Geralds's birthday party.

Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.
Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.

An incredible evening of good fun held at “Freedom Park” in Lagos.  It used to be a prison during British colonial times, but now is a gathering place for freedom of expression.  And fun.

No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!
No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!

Thank you, gentlemen, for all your hard work during our Find Your Edge project, and for taking care of me last night.

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Thanks, gents!
Thanks, gents!

And thank you Isaac, for your incredible voice that you so freely gave last night AND at the Student Summit on Wednesday.

Check him singing live my favorite song: "Ijebu Girl!" below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P66A8OBs_h4

Thank you again, Ayo, for dreaming such BIG dreams. And thank you, Ayoola for putting the business wheels into high gear.  Thank you, Folake and Seyi for being so supportive, sharp and caring. Thanks to everyone of you dear hard workers at SwiftThink.  This is only the beginning!

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Ayoola and me before the start of the Student Summit. Dream BIG people!

As I prepare to get on the plane this evening that will take me back to the United States – which I haven’t visited in three years -  I’ll be remembering all the inspirational experiences and new friends I had and met here in Nigeria.

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Faces of inspiration at our Student Summit this week!

I’ll be looking forward to seeing my husband and daughter whom I haven’t seen since I came here, 34 days ago.  I’ll be thinking of my dear mommy whom I haven’t seen during the whole time I lived in Tuscany.  And I also can’t help thinking about the people who yesterday boarded Malaysian Flight 17 only to meet with unexpected and preventable tragedy.

Nigerians often tell me how much they love life.  Last night’s birthday party certainly demonstrated it in a most joyful way.

Party! :)
Party! :)

I love life too - and want to savor and embrace every second of it because as we all know, life is fleeting.

Let’s encourage one another and unapologetically dance, sing, laugh and celebrate every moment that we can.

I love you, Lagos.  See you soon.

Baci!

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All rights reserved.

 


Nigeria Diary: The questions I am getting

Besides the ubiquitous, “How do you find your time here in Nigeria?” which I answer at least half a dozen times each day, some probing souls are asking me more pointed questions.

Questions like, “How can you relate to us as a white?”

I believe there are always ways to find common ground.
I believe there are always ways to find common ground.

“Don’t you think policies in the West will not work here?”

Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!
Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!

As someone who has worked and trained –and even lived – in a variety of places like Indonesia, Cambodia, Tunisia and Egypt, I welcome each and every question from each and every person.   I am never offended when someone is straightforward and honest.  It’s through the questions, that I can learn more about the person and find ways to overcome his or her concerns.

So, for the record, here are some of the questions and my answers I am receiving here in Nigeria.

  1. How can you relate to us as a white?   It’s more than obvious that my skin color is lighter than most everyone I meet here in Lagos. For example, I sat in service yesterday at a parish of Africa’s fastest growing church, The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ.  Did I say “sat?!

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I meant to say, I "stood, danced, sang and shimmied" for four hours! The meeting was a party. An encouraging celebration of each other and God.  I loved all of it.  And yes, I was the only pinky-skinned lady in the hall.  After the service, a young man interviewed me for his blog – asking how I got started with my career.  I offered some relationship and networking strategies – telling him to make sure to keep in close contact with his favorite professors after he graduates. He hadn’t thought of them as possible relationships, only teachers.  We connected on that point.  He is young. I am not as young. He is male. I am not. Yes, he has dark skin. I do not.  Years ago, when I trained an incredible group of Iraqi women running for office, their country was (as is still now) in the midst of chaos and fear.  I couldn’t relate on that level, but I could understand their desires to balance family and career.  We were able to find common ground.  And that’s the trick. Searching for those common hopes, dreams and fears that link us all together as human beings on the planet, regardless of our different cultures, traditions, backgrounds and even skin tones.

2. Don’t you think policies in the West won’t work here in Africa?  Let’s break that down.  Which policies? The policy of being thoughtful to your customers, employees or citizens?  To considering and providing for their well-being?  To holding peaceful, free and fair elections if you call yourself a democracy? Injustices happen everywhere, not just in Africa, and the only way to affect change, is to constantly and consistently expose and push against those injustices.  Observers sometimes complain there is not enough investigative journalism here.  But as I work with journalists and civil rights organizations in places where there is less than free expression due to a variety of real or perceived dire consequences, I am often impressed there is any level of investigative journalism. I try to encourage the increase, not carp about the short-comings.

3. Can you really teach journalists, you seem very motivational?  This was probably my most surprising question, as it didn’t come from a Nigerian at all, but rather from an American who seemed more than skeptical; she seemed down right cynical.  Whew!

Journalism training session
Journalism training session

Of course I try to be motivational. Encouraging.  Supportive. Inspirational.  Call it what you what.  To me,  it’s part of what you do as a trainer, as a coach.  First, you must try to establish a connection or a relationship.  I would NEVER come into a newsroom or any training room for that matter, and immediately launch into how to write better, or how to manage better, or how to stay on message better. What’s the incentive to change, aka work harder, from that approach?

Having once been a working journalist myself, I know that most journalists everywhere are not paid well.  We likely got into the field because we liked telling stories.  Stories that might make a difference.   The way I try to connect with journalists is to re-ignite that flame still burning inside them.  To inspire them that their writing - if credible and accurate – might make those differences over time.

I have read in diplomacy circles that relationships are, for some reason, labeled with the jargony impersonal word, “architecture.”  As in, “how strong is your architecture with journalists??”  Whatever the word, the point remains the same.  If you don’t first connect with your audience on some level, they are never going to care about what you say.  It’s basic 101 in presentation training lessons for anyone, regardless of your audience’s ethnicity or country-origin.

 First you connect. Then you can teach, or inform or persuade.  It seems obvious and yet it is too seldom done. Perhaps the obstacles seem too high.  But if we spend time building the architecture, the relationship bridges, to get over them,  I think the outcomes will be worth the effort.

Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.
Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.

Yours from Lagos,

Gina

 

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 


Nigeria Diary: Meet the Press

Journalism can impact the course of world history in a myriad of ways.  And here in Lagos, I am meeting dozens of journalists who are committed to changing the course of their nation - for the better.

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In the past week, as part of our Find Your Edge Leadership and Communication program, I have had the privilege of conducting journalist training sessions at The Nation, the number two newspaper in all of Nigeria, and at TVC News, the first 24-hour news network covering the continent and emphasizes its news-gathering distinction with the tag-line, "Through African Eyes."

The participant journalists from TVC News Africa
The participant journalists from TVC News Africa

My hands-on training takes real stories in the headlines and calls on journalists to completely re-think them.  We analyze sourcing methods and verification.  We examine how to report from breaking news scenes. We consider ways to add context and perspective.  We drill on honing writing skills to become precise and powerful.

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Overall, the standard of journalism I have seen so far, has a way to go.  Many print articles I read meander and don't ask officials the obvious follow-up questions.   I've watched lack-luster reporters and anchors who appear only blandly interested in the stories they are covering.

But these groups I have worked with are different. They are eager to sharpen their skills and push themselves and frankly, in this environment, assume the possible risks.

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Like Evelyn, one reporter I worked with - who has been doggedly uncovering injustices for years - which have now evoked enough awareness and outcry that she tells me some officials want to meet with her to talk about ways to craft policy change.

And Mark, the radio broadcaster who shared with me at the end of our session how he is now inspired to not only read the news, but to consider the hopes, dreams and fears of his listeners and to seek ways to provide context around stories to help them better understand ramifications.

the nations paper

Journalism isn't a career you enter thinking you're going to make a lot of money.  Our wealth comes from telling real stories that make a difference.

In every society it's the same. For journalists to build credibility and deliver value, they have to learn to be watchdogs, not lapdogs.

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The people I have met appear earnest and eager.  They are authorities in their business; the people who can influence others to join the cause. To become leaders, not just writers and readers.

Reporting live from Lagos, Nigeria. I'm Gina London. Now back to you.

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 


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.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OclPEwZrPuo

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.

 

WISCAR

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,

Gina