In my very first Podcast, I interviewed The Impacttologist, Martin Brooks about the Future of Communication.

In each bi-weekly episode, we provide a look at what’s new, what’s next and what you need to do next week to survive in this digital world, as told through the eyes of global experts.

You’ll find every episode full of practical ideas and answers to the question, “What’s the future of … ?” with voices and opinions that need to be heard.

But beware, I’m no ordinary futurist, and along with my guests, we’ll give you things you can use in your business next week, not next year.

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In this show we covered a range of topics:

  • What is an Impacttologist and who would hire one?
  • What levers can you pull to make you a better communicator and maximise your impact?
  • How do we communicate in a world without face-to-face communication (eg messaging apps, Skype etc)?
  • Tips to become a better presenter
  • Tips to communicate more effectively in conference calls
  • How persuaders are irreplaceable and how those with these skills will transcend the threats from AI
  • 3 Suggestions for next week
  • What’s been the greatest technology threat/opportunity for your business?

Episode Chapters

00:47 Introducing Martin Brooks
01:26 Social serendipity
02:15 Who hires an “Impacttologist?
04:51 The performance levers
08:17 Adapting to new communications channels
11:24 Using new channels more effectively
14:12 A practical tip for public speaking
19:28 Learning from how pilots communicate
21:37 Using “rounds” on conference calls
25:20 The power of persuasion
31:47 Tips for being a great communicator
34:14 Three practical tips for next week
35:55 How has technology impacted your business?
38:25 How to find Martin online

More about Martin

Twitter: @ImpactTologist
LinkedIn: Martin Brooks
A video interview with Martin

Show Transcript

Andrew: Welcome to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast, a show all about the near-term future with practical tips and tricks from a range of global experts. I’m your host, Andrew Grill. You’ll find every episode full of practical ideas and answers to the question, “What’s the future of?” With voices and opinions that need to be heard. But beware, I’m no ordinary futurist, and my guest will give you things you can use in your business next week, not next year. Let’s jump into it. In this episode, what’s the future of communication?

Andrew: Welcome to episode one of the Actionable Futurist Podcast. In this episode, my guest is the impacttologist, Martin Brooks. Welcome, Martin.

Martin: Hello.

Andrew: Your Twitter bio says you’re an enabler of people’s potential. Your feedback helps people to create greater impact in presentations. Is that a good summary of what you actually do?

Martin: Absolutely. In a different format, it’s really about helping people to communicate to the fullest of their potential, utilising all of the channels of communication, their messaging, their body language, their voice, how they sequence stuff, handling performance nerves and high pressure situations, and boosting confidence. So I put all of those elements together to enable people to communicate with maximum impact.

Andrew: There’s actually a fascinating story about how we met. If I look back, I tweeted a link to my showreel back in late 2016, I think it was-

Martin: Wow.

Andrew: … and you responded that it was a great way to show impact. What happened next?

Martin: Well, I thought it was really interesting in that it was the first time I’d ever seen somebody use video, and some speakers are not hugely confident about what they do, wouldn’t put unadulterated clips of themselves out there. So it was something that was, being the technological enabler that you are, you probably don’t … somebody who been doing that first. And I thought that was really interesting that you put that out there, and it created an impact. For me, it was something different, and I responded to it, and then we started conversing. You were interested in what I did.

Andrew: Yeah, we’ve been working together on my talks ever since then. You’ve become the voice in my head on stage, so that’s either a good or a bad thing. So who would hire an impacttologist?

Martin: One of the key things that I find in working with people, motivates people, is pain or gain. Any psychologist will tell you that pain is a greater motivator than gain. Certainly in competitive situations where people have had that horrible feedback in a pitch or a presentation scenario, particularly if there’s a prize like a new product launch or are a company looking for venture capital intervention, and get that feedback. Great pitch, loved your offering, really interesting. You get down to the last two, but we went with the other company supplier. We invested elsewhere. And that’s that moment where people are realising that they were close, they were within sniffing distance of achieving first place, whatever that is, using a sporting metaphor, but unlike sport and business, there’s no prize for coming second.

Martin: So it’s that pain, people realising there was something that they could done differently, better, or the other person did something more, more often a higher level of technique, and those got competitive advantage. Then it often will come down to people’s communication skills, how well they put across their information. And interestingly, a very large blue chip company, I spoke to their chief storytelling officer a while ago, and he said that he had senior people within the organisation come to him constantly, saying they didn’t understand the buyer’s behaviour, because they said they bought a offering that is substandard and was more expensive and that their sales people or their account managers articulated that in great detail, but they still went with the other person. They paid more for an inferior product.

Martin: And there, the differentiator, and it wasn’t just a differentiator in terms of equality of product or offering, actually the communication skills of the people actually overruled what would’ve, on the pure technical analysis, that the person’s communication skills overrode an inferior product. So it’s not just like level playing field, but you can actually lose out with a superior offering to somebody who’s got superior communication skills. So anywhere where people have experienced that pain, they go, “I do not want that to be the reason that I don’t succeed, that I don’t make the impact that I want,” and that’s often a motivator to people to come to me and go, “What could I do differently, better, more?”

Andrew: So when you’ve got them in front of you and you’ve reviewed their performance, what are the levers that you can pull to maximise their impact? Because obviously, like an athlete, there’ll be a certain point where they just can’t get any better, or maybe they can. Is it you can have a step change with some people, and then I think with people like me that have been doing this for awhile, I’m seeing not step changes anymore, no disrespect, but I’m seeing really tiny things that can have a huge impact, even though they seem quite small. What are the levers?

Martin: Well, the, the levers vary person to person, but there’s certainly some ones that are very, very consistent. With my offering, I’ve got a sales background, so I understand the importance of having a good message, and having that sequenced in the appropriate way. What’s the problem? How do you solve it? How do you solve it better than other people? What would be the inhibitors to the person making the decision, and how can you motivate people through the downside of the current situation and the upside of what you’re suggesting? So structurally I understand all of that, and a lot of people who are presentation or pitch coaches very often come from an acting or drama background. And I understand that, the ability to orate, and speak clearly, and use tone and pitch, all of that stuff really, really important. But fundamentally if your messages flawed, if it’s structurally unsound, you can make it as pretty as you like, but it’s just not gonna work.

Martin: So the starting point for me is very often the messaging, making sure that what people are going to say once they know who they’re pitching to, who that audience is, where they are currently, where the speaker wants to get them to, and then the steps that are going to be needed in between. So my starting point is often like a SatNav (GPS). I say a SatNav needs two points of reference, where you are and where you want to get to. And then only when your SatNav knows what those two points are can start to plot the in between piece.

Martin: So my starting point is often that, so the answer to your question, the first lever is very often how clear is the message. Before we start doing any of the stuff that might seem more obvious at this point in time, like body language or voice or words, actually you got to start with the message. Otherwise you use the phrase that I say you’re putting lipstick on a pig. It looks prettier, but it’s still a pig, no disrespect to any pig lovers out there. The messaging is the is this is the starting point, and then you can look at delivery, so with what I call design and the delivery phase, the design of the message and then the delivery.

Martin: Then the levers are things like body language, it’s voice, it’s the language that you actually choose. Then it’s handling performance anxiety or nerves and boosting confidence, all those core elements. And then you get into the advanced rhetorical techniques, things that the top, top, top, top speakers in the world do, like triples, or dramatic contrast, or utilising statistics, the killer stats, appropriately. There’s a whole myriad of things, and now what I look at is, there’s a million things I could say to somebody, but I look at that starting point. Who’s your audience? Where do you want to get to? And then it’s a matter of whatever time’s available, picking the most important things that I believe will help move that person forward and more successful communicator by making a good impact.

Andrew: So I want to change tack a bit. You told me the day that our psychology and neurology are geared to face to face communications, and now we’re in a world where everything’s moving online. We’ve got people buried in their phones talking to each other in the next room. Maybe you can talk a bit about that, and how we have to adapt as communicators to these different channels.

Martin: Yeah, and it’s a really interesting point and one I have reflected on a lot over the years, particularly as new technologies become available, and even going back 10, 15 years, whatever it was, where email started to become, I remember going on an email etiquette course, and it was one of those things where here’s your toy, go play with it, but nobody gave you the rules.

Andrew: Yeah.

Martin: And this course just blew me away, even though I’ve been using email for a couple of years. It was really common sense stuff about using it. So if you reply to a person, just thinking is the title still relevant, because that bounces back and forth a couple of times, very often the message now bears zero resemblance to the original title. And six months later when you’re trying to find that email, you can’t find it, because it’s under the wrong title. So simple things like that.

Martin: The analogy I think we discussed was, here we are, sat in the UK. If you drive a car, you drive on the left. I’ve driven on the left all my life. I’m pretty good at driving on the left. That’s the environment within which I’ve built my skillset. But if I go to the continent or America and I start driving a car, it’s a car, it’s got four wheels. It’s the same thing, but now the environment is different. So when the environment changes, you have to change your behaviour to be appropriate to that environment. You can’t just drive on the left because that’s what you’re used to in America. You’d die pretty quickly.

Martin: Technology is the same. I think our, and if you look at our human being’s evolution, we’ve evolved to do face to face communication. Technology and everything else is very, very new in our species development. It’s a different environment, so communicating over the phone is different than communicating face to face. Communicating on a teleconference is very different. Communicating via SMS is very different to face to face communication, primarily an email, similarly, it doesn’t have that interactivity. When you start a sentence with somebody face to face, you can look at their facial expressions. You can see how they’re starting to respond.

Martin: In fact, when I was studying psychology, one of the things that we were being taught was what’s called sensory acuity. As you start speaking to somebody, noticing how your message is landing and do you need to change tack, or what’s somebody’s emotional response to that, and I remember the lecturer is saying, when you get really good at this, you’ll be able to change the second half of a sentence depending upon how the person has responded to the first half. And I remember thinking that’s crazy, but the more you start doing it and you build it up, you can. None of that is possible on a teleconference or an SMS. It’s just one way, and then it lands how it lands, and you go with the response that you get.

Andrew: It’s a huge thing. I think I do it myself, that you can become almost a chameleon, but you need that visual encourage. You need the audience looking at their phone, or staring at you, or nodding or whatever it is to know whether you can speed up or slow down, and you’re right. On a communications channel where you can’t see the other person or there’s an impairment to see them because it’s on a video conference and you can’t see their whole body language, as well. I think it’s a really important point. So how do you use the different communication channels more effectively? Are there tips that you can give us?

Martin: Yeah, absolutely. One thing actually I saw recently was a piece of research where … Well, technology enabling this, looking at the richness of somebody’s voice. And they had done some experiments where they’d got somebody to have a conversation with somebody, and they measured the variance in pitch, and speed, and warmth, and tone, and emotion in the voice, which now you can start to measure, and they did a a task group of that. Then they did a second test group where people were having a very, very similar conversation, but now they had just had a picture of the person that they were talking to. They could measure very, very specifically changes in the voice in terms of emotion and pitch and tone, because it seemed more “real.” Therefore, there’s an interesting dynamic about how our vocal tonalities and the quality of our communication drop, because we’re not tuned to that. There’s nobody there. It feels like we’re talking to ourselves psychologically.

Martin: Even a conference I attended yesterday, a speaker got up, and this will tickle you. They had their speech printed out long form, and there was parts and time where they would look down and they would read their speech.

Andrew: I call them the “Lectern Grabbers”. They hold on for dear life.

Martin: And what was fascinating was, I could hear the difference when they were looking down and reading versus when they came up and they were actually talking around a piece.

Andrew: And they could see people reacting.

Martin: They can see people reacting, what’s landing, what’s not landing. They would pause in the right places, et cetera. And all of those little subtleties would come into play when they were doing the “face to face piece,” when as soon as they looked down and were reading, they lost that interactivity. The vocal tonalities dropped. They weren’t able to pick up on what the audience were or were not responding to, where to pause, where to allow the laugh, to giggle out more effectively. All of those little subtleties.

Martin: But coming back to the point about the difference in first and second, I remember seeing Chris Hoy, the Olympic gold medalist, talk about this idea of marginal gains. Don’t go after the big things. Go after all the little things, and they have that cumulative effect. And in a competitive environment, it could be some of those small things like the drop of tonality of the voice, and often when you ask people, why did you pick those personalities, “I felt more convinced.” It was an emotion that they talk about, and it’s that vocal identification of the relationship and the enthusiasm and the energy that people connect with as much as the offering that’s being talked about. But often it’s the style of delivery of the person that makes that final decision.

Andrew: Given this is the Actionable Futurist Podcast, I’ve got to drop a practical tip in there, something I do, and something that you’ve helped me with. I record my speeches. And so if I had recorded my talk and I’d been that person grabbing the lectern, I would have seen for myself the changing attitude, and then I could give it to someone like you, and you could review it and go, “Oh, here’s a easy thing. Don’t look down at the speech.” So how important is it if people want to improve that they, and I had to do this, it took me two years to stop cringing when I watched myself present. But I think when you actually see it played back and then have someone like you that’s essentially a coach saying this is what you do differently, how important is that for people to understand their style and delivery?

Martin: I think it’s fascinating. I’ve had a couple of conversations, I’ve been to a couple of conferences and events in the last couple of days, and people saying to me, “We are our own worst evaluators, because we over-obsess on the small mistakes that we are making that are obvious to us,” but you can’t recognise what you don’t understand. So for example, I worked with a senior executive at a very large accounting firm recently, and he sent me a clip that he had. I reviewed it, and he had said the word um 11 times in the first sentence. So my first piece of feedback was, “Well, you said um 11 times in your first sentence.” Not the first sentence, sorry, the first minute of his talk.

Martin: And his first reaction was, “Did I?” So there was no conscious awareness of that. No idea. Even earlier this week, I was coaching a CEO who’s launching a whole new product, in fact today, to a bunch of venture capitalists, and I talked about using gesturing, what I call inline gestures or illustrators, and she had no idea that she did it, but she did it sporadically. So I find, I’ve used the phrase accidental brilliance, where people will do things without the awareness of what they’re doing. Just somehow, they’ve [osmosized 00:16:00] it up from somebody, and they do that. People are sometimes surprised. I spend as much time pointing out people’s good habits that they don’t know they have as their bad habits that they don’t know they have, and then we work from there to increase what they can do differently.

Andrew: And again, the practical tip, it’s simple to do. If you have an iPhone or an Android phone, go and buy a 10 pound tripod and a clamp. Put it at the back of the room, hit record before you go on stage. It’s not something that’s ready for broadcast yet, but it’s something that you can look at yourself and give to someone like you. I’ve gone the next step. I bought some professional gear. I even have two cameras now so I can cut together. But that’s kind of one end of the spectrum. But I think the first thing is realising that if you’re going to improve, you have to assess your performance.

Martin: Yeah. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve come to me and said, “I just can’t bring myself to watch myself. It’s just too cringeworthy.” I don’t like looking at myself either, because I spot every tiny little thing that I think there is an opportunity to go better. But once you get over that, and once you’re committed to, I think you used the phrase, going from good to great, once there’s that decision, I want to get better and I’ll take the pain with that. And the great thing I find is that in a very short period of time, I will often film people before and after. What’s your first person? What’s your second? And when you can clearly show back to people the subtle changes and the difference that they make, and then as you mentioned, the cumulative effect of all of those small things all build into a greater and greater and greater impact, give you more and more and more competitive advantage.

Andrew: I mean by myself, I showed you one of my clips recently where I asked the audience something. No, they asked me something from the stage, and when I answered, I stepped backwards. I had no idea that I’d done that, and so because you’re now the voice in my head, when an audience member asks me a question, I walked forward, and I think that probably has more impact. But I only know it because I watched it, and you then picked it up. Even watching my clip back, I would never have seen it. It’s those little things that can can be so important.

Martin: That’s known as the postural retreat, where you literally have very little faith in what you’ve just said, so you distance yourself from-

Andrew: You’re running away from it.

Martin: You’re running away from it. There’s the famous Richard Nixon clip where he says, “I am not a crook,” whilst nodding his head yes, and, “I earned every cent of that money,” whilst nodding his head from side to side in the no fashion. And then he takes a step back and folds his arms, so he distances himself from his lies, and he folds his arms, which is a body psychological way of protecting the vulnerable no organs at the front. And anybody can Google that. Just Google Richard Nixon I’m not a crook, and watch him nod his head yes when he says I’m not a crook. Watch him nod his head side to side when he said I earned every cent of that money, and then steps back, what we call the postural retreat, moving away.

Martin: And people don’t understand that. I’ve met very few people when I explain it and go, “Oh yes, I knew that.” People respond to it. Something just seems off. People feel a lack of confidence when that’s done. So you don’t have to be consciously aware of what something is for it to have a negative impact. We can’t smell carbon monoxide, but it’ll kill us anyway. And sometimes things like that can kill your pitch. So that’s where I add real value and where I can spot things that may will be reducing your impact. My rule is always I will never share something with you that is reducing your impact unless I give you a replacement behaviour, something to do differently that will boost your impact. So that’s always my golden rule.

Andrew: I’m getting practical again. I’m in a bit of an airline gig, because I travel so much. So I like knowing how planes communicate with each other. If ever you listen to air traffic control or go to Youtube, you’ll find that the air traffic controller will say, for example, SpeedBird 16, descend to 7,000, and the pilot will respond back with exactly what was said, speed SpeedBird 16, descend 7,000, which then both sides know that they’ve been heard and they’ve been understood, and that’s a really formal way of communication. That saves lives.

Martin: Yes. Literally.

Andrew: Can we learn from that really formal structured communication back into the workplace? You talked a bit about rounds the other day.

Martin: Yes. There’s the wonderful phrase that silence does not equal agreement, understanding, or motivation to act.

Andrew: Says Andrew, nodding his head.

Martin: Indeed. So you can communicate something on a teleconference, five, 10, 15, 20 people. I remember many years ago when I worked for a large corporate being on a teleconference that had a number of thousand people on it. Now you can’t interact with that number of people effectively. It’s just not possible. However, depending upon the complexity of the message, how do you know that it’s being understood? And certainly your starting point is just because it made sense to you in your head as you said it, and you know the context, and you know where people are and where you want them to be and what they want to do differently, and you’re motivated, none of that necessarily transfers with your words. People will misinterpret things. How many times have-

Andrew: They’re on mute and they’re talking to other people about what they’re saying. They’re typing to each other.

Martin: Yeah, absolutely. There was some research in Wall Street Journal the other day, I can’t remember the exact figures, but something like 65% of people admitted to doing other work whilst on a teleconference. And you know, human beings, we know we can’t multitask. That’s why texting whilst driving is illegal. It’s very dangerous. You can’t do those two things at the same time. Unfortunately, the accident statistics support that. We think we can multitask. We can do different things.

Andrew: We can, we know we can.

Martin: We know we can. What we can’t do is do two tasks, even if we can, think we can, we can’t do two tasks effectively as we can do one. You can’t divide your brain power and have the division parts the same size. So when talking about, come back to your question about rounds, then that’s a technique that I learned on teleconference. You can say something that’s perfectly clear to you, but is it clear to your audience? So you can have a spreadsheet in front of you at the attendees, and you can start at the top. Okay, so I’m going to do a round now. I’m going to come out, and I’m going to double check all that makes sense to somebody, everybody. And when I say your name, come off mute, and just confirm that that all makes sense, et cetera, et cetera.

Martin: And then you can go around. So Tom, does that makes sense? Yes. Sheila, does that make sense? Yes. And you can go round. You can confirm understanding and/or welcome questions, depending on the number of people. But what’s even more effective is that before you start that, you say, “I’m going to be asking you questions after this.”

Andrew: So get ready.

Martin: So effectively get ready. And that’s one way of increasing people’s engagement with what you’re saying, knowing there’s going to be a question at some point. So that was the rounds technique. So even though it can’t be as interactive as face to face, you’re looking to bring in some of those interactivity pieces and remembering that old idea that silence does not equal agreement, understanding, or motivation to act.

Andrew: Otherwise, the strongest voices will literally overpower the conversation. If you’re on the internet at the moment, Google conference call in real life, where they replay what actually happens, and the call drops out, and people talk to each other, and you hear the coffee machine in the background. But I think that’s a great technique. It’s, again, a very practical tip. It sounds so simple that it may not even work, but it will work, and I think people on the conference call won’t know that you are formally doing this. They’ll just go, “That was a great conference call. Not sure why, but Martin really had command of it, and we’ve got some action points. Let’s get on with it.”

Martin: Yeah. So it’s about this idea of environment, when you move environment, are there new tools and techniques that you knew you need to utilise? We talked the other day about the named question technique, for example, and that’s another way of making sure that engagement is there. Now, the way we would normally ask a question is, “What do you think of that, Andrew?” Now imagine you’re on a teleconference. You are doing your email. You’re only half listening, and then I ask you a question that’s not just about comprehension, but how would you apply this tool, this technique, or this strategy to your area? Say for example, it’s an international goal. Now, there’s however many other people in that call become very aware that you weren’t listening, because you go, “Yes, well-”

Andrew: “I’m just coming off mute.”

Martin: Yeah, “Let me just is hit send.” That would not work for the relationship with that person. You’re now going to make them feel horrible, potentially humiliate them in front of the entire group of people. So yes, they will be engaged, and you’ll frighten the hell out of everybody else on the call, but it’s not particularly positive. So a better way of doing it is what I call the named question technique.

Andrew: So you start the question with their name.

Martin: Exactly. So you reverse the order. So you go, “Andrew, let me ask you about,” exactly.

Andrew: The head pops up. Ooh, here comes the question.

Martin: Yeah, because there is no more engaging sign to anybody than the sound of their own name. So if you say the person’s name, pause slightly, then ask the question, A, you’re going to get a much better response, and the person won’t feel quite as bad as then having almost no time before they’ve got to respond. And the other side effect is that anybody else who wasn’t listening will go, “Phew, thank goodness that wasn’t me. But I better start listening more intently, because it might be me the next time.”

Andrew: Dale Carnegie in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People famously said, I think it was number six, “The sweetest sound in the world is the sound of your own name,” and they’re right, Martin.

Martin: Yeah. Absolutely.

Andrew: Martin, I think it’s really, Martin, yeah. I wanted to touch on something I know that we’re both passionate about, and that’s the power of persuasion. We do what we do because we want to persuade other people to change their mind, change their software, change their thinking. I started reading an excellent book called Talk Like Ted.

Martin: Yes.

Andrew: It’s by an author called Carmine Gallo, and it’s titled Five Stars From Good to Great. I couldn’t put it down. The opening chapter really affirms my thinking about the value and the skill of public speaking, and Gallo provides a couple of examples. He says that persuaders are irreplaceable. He argues in the book that the days of being average in business are over. If a computer could recognise average, it can replicate average. Average simply isn’t good enough to stand out in the digital age. Another beautiful quote, if you can persuade, inspire, and ignite the imagination of others, you will be unstoppable, irresistible, and irreplaceable.

Andrew: And with all the talk of the moment about AI, and am I going to lose my job, will I be replaced by that, he has a point that there is a transferable skill that all humans can learn and we can conquer, and that is the power of persuasion. One more quote, then I’ll get your thoughts on this. He goes on to say that emotional connection is indeed the winning ticket in a world where technology such as automation, big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are eliminating millions of jobs and disrupting entire industries, businesses, and careers. His key point is in every economic shift, and we’re in one right now, and especially in this digital revolution, communication skills become more valuable and not less. I know you’re not going to disagree with that, but can you just amplify what Gallo was saying, that having the ability to communicate effectively and having a real impact will actually protect your value to an organisation?

Martin: I couldn’t agree more with those ideas and thoughts, and I think you got to step back a little bit and go, why is that true? And one reason is certainly what you’ve definitely alluded to. If there’s a simple structure to what you’re doing, AI will be doing that in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years, whatever that timeline is going to be. The thing is about what can you do differently, better, faster, and certainly communication and persuasion. We talked earlier about that idea of sensory acuity and picking up if somebody is buying into that idea, challenged by that idea, excited by that idea. And that’s very, very difficult for a lot of people to have that flexibility to be able to shift and change and do something different. So that idea around persuasion is definitely a key one, and the interpersonal skills to be able to do that.

Martin: In fact, another quote that I’ve heard from Carmine is communication and leadership skills are in high demand and low supply. And if something’s in low supply, then obviously there’s a premium. There’s a premium, there’s high demand and low supply, everybody knows that. So that’s definitely one part of it, and I would agree, and I think why is there that skill shortage now? I think that’s because you and I, here we sit in our fifties. In our teens and our twenties when we’ve wanted to speak to our friends, we did it face to face or we did it over the phone. It was interactive. People coming into the workplace now I have spent done a lot of that communication that we did face to face on the phone by SMS or Whatsapp, lacking that interactivity piece.

Martin: Anybody who practises any skill more than somebody else will be better at it. It’s just simple neurology. Repetition is the mother of skill. So people coming into the workplace now who haven’t got that same practise, just that same exposure to this kind of stuff, like turn taking in conversations. You can always tell when somebody wants to speak, because they breathe in and hold their breath. Simple things like that. If you haven’t had that practise, you’re not going to be as good as that as somebody else. So they think there’s a second element. Yes, I would agree with Carmine, if AI can replicate it, it will, but I think also for people who are younger, maybe people listening to their podcasts or thinking about their kids, in four, five, 10 years’ time, they’re going to be into the marketplace. What can we help them with?

Martin: I think those core communications skills, certainly in leadership, if you want to inspire a team, you want to motivate a team, you want to energise a team. That’s not something that AI can do. That’s all human to human stuff. So the importance of those key communication skills is really, really important.

Andrew: When I got up to speak or I come off stage and someone says, “Oh, I could never do that,” I kind of chuckle, going, “That’s one less person competing with me.” But my daughter Madeline, she’s 12, and I’m encouraging her to practise these skills at a young age. I did that. I was debating when I was probably younger than her, so I got used to being in front of a crowd. I got used to being nervous and getting over it. I had no idea that in 45 years’ time, this would become a real transferable skill, would be an economic skill. Part of how I earn my money and my trade is by public speaking, but I didn’t realise also that in this shift now with technology and jobs are being lost, that probably this is the number one skill that will ensure that you are relevant into the next transformation.

Martin: Absolutely, and it is one of those things that you look at the statistics that come out every year about people’s top phobias, what’s right up there? Public speaking. And again, that’s fear of rejection, making yourself very visible. Lots of people that I work with will orientate them back to what I call a primary psychological event, went to school for the first time, they came up and got public. Funnily enough, if it was positive, the quite like public speaking.

Andrew: Yes. Yes.

Martin: If it was negative, the brain goes, “Well, I stuck my head above the parapet once. I got shut off. I’m not going to do that again.” So that’s where I got to do often a lot of work around building people’s confidence and giving them the how to so they know how to be able to do it. And that’s really, really important. It comes back to the old idea that if a lot of people find it difficult, then there’s a niche. There’s an opportunity there. I don’t think our psychology and our physiology is going to change. I think that’s going to be similar. I think if you do the research in five years’ time, I think public speaking is always going to come up as something that people don’t like doing.

Andrew: So I’m assuming the demographic of this podcast, probably got three different groups. We’ve got the young leaders who want to impress. We’ve got the middle managers just trying to break that next point, and you’ve got the senior execs and the CEO’s who are representing their companies. What are some simple things that each group can do to overcome that fear and stand out and be a great communicator?

Martin: Big part of it is psychology, and a big part of, I find, the emotional states that we get ourselves into, and this is very powerful, but also very challenging, is that every emotional state that we ever get into, we did it. We did it to ourselves. Other people can’t make you feel something. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Nobody can make you feel about yourself.” That’s always a self decision. So in terms of the nerves and feeling challenged by public speaking, I have what I call the three Bs of boosting your confidence. The first one is your brain, what psychologists call your inner voice. Every single time I’ve worked with somebody who’s got a heightened nervousness, not quite a phobia, but certainly quite fearful of the public speaking, when I see them get into that emotional state, I say, “Stop. What are you saying about yourself to yourself inside your head right now?”

Martin: And 99.99 times out of a hundred, it’s, “Oh, you’re screwing this up again. I can’t believe it. I hate this. I hate doing public speaking. This is terrible. You’re watching me. I feel terrible.” What kind of emotion is that thought process going to create? It’s only ever going to create nervousness, anxiousness. I remember hearing this wonderful story from a voice coach years ago about John F. Kennedy, and he had an outward mantra for want of a better phrase. And when he is going on stage, and he’d feel incredibly nervous looking out, and I’m the president, and I’m supposed to be this great speaker, blah, blah, blah. And he would stand in the wings, and he would look out into the crowd and he would say, “I’m delighted to be here with you, and I know that you are delighted to be here with me.”

Martin: I’m delighted to be here with you, and I know that you are delighted to be here with me. That positive self talk, that mantra then would get himself into that more confident psychological state to then be able to walk out as a president of the United States and orate in such a wonderful way that he did. So that first B, your brain, how you talk about yourself to yourself, is a major indicator of the psychological state you’re going to be in and how well you’re going to perform.

Andrew: Almost out of time. As I’m doing in every podcast to ensure this is all about practical things you can do, let’s have some quick fire practical tips. So what are the three things listeners can do to be more effective next week?

Martin: Fantastic, great question. Three things people can do to be more effective next week. First of all is think about that SatNav analogy. If you’re going to communicate with somebody, where are they, where do you want to get them to, and what is the most appropriate roadmap to be able to do that? In terms, start with your message, and make sure that’s really clear. Most speakers I find talk with an assumption of interest. They assume their audience is interested in their topic as they are, and they’re just not. So the first thing then is about getting that message right.

Martin: The second key thing that they can do is prepare, rehearse more. The number of times I talk to people and they go through their slide deck, and I say, how many times have you stood up and said this out loud so far? And they look at me with the facial expression that can only indicate the number zero. So practise and rehearsal. Know your message, practise and rehearsal, and the third thing is look at people who are successful. We talk about technology. Look at Ted, the website, the best speakers in the world, doing your thing, and start to be much more curious about how do the top speakers do this?

Martin: You’ve referenced Carmine Gallo’s books which are all fantastic, Talk Like Ted, Five Stars, et cetera, et cetera. They will give you tools and tips about how to be able to do it. So three things that people can do differently, get their message right, rehearse and plan and invest the time, and thirdly, pay attention to the fantastic resources that are right there in terms of books or Ted in order to really challenge ourselves about how do we communicate rather than just thinking about content.

Andrew: Two more bonus quickfire questions. You run a small business.

Martin: Yes.

Andrew: What’s been the greatest threat technology has brought to your business?

Martin: Well, this is interesting. In training and development, which are right where I’ve come from, elearning has been the greatest threat, and on a spreadsheet it looks staggeringly compelling. Pay for 12 senior executives to come to a gather, put them up in a hotel the night before, then pay a consultant to be in the room with them. Their lost opportunity costs, they’re not doing their job for those two days, et cetera, et cetera. Hey, let’s stick this thing online called elearning, and they can do it and their own time, no travel, no time, don’t have to pay a consultant, small fee, wonderful. And that has been a big threat to the learning and development industry. Now, unfortunately, everybody who has done it knows that, again, it’s a shift of environments, very difficult to make that work. There’s been lots interesting research called there. The biggest part of learning is actually something called social learning, paying attention to what other people do or don’t do, doing the things that they do well, learning from their mistakes, talking about it.

Martin: And that’s where people really do learn. So that whole shift to elearning has been a major threat to the business, which is why I’ve embraced their opportunities of it. So I work differently. I do digital coaching. When I’m working with senior executives, people like yourself, their diaries are busy. Actually the biggest challenge very often is actually getting two people available at the same time. My digital coaching offering, which is either like with yourself, I can look at your talks, you publish them online, or if I’m working with somebody else, they can just send me through our file sharing app. They can email me a very large file, which again, you couldn’t do 20 years ago, and I can watch that video. So digital coaching is something I’ve now embraced, where I can watch somebody’s video clip, then do a simple voice recording of my feedback, and I can play their video.

Martin: So at two minutes, 32 you said this, however, what I would say would be this, so they can then watch their own video back with my voice commentary, looking at the difference of what they did versus what I’m suggesting, and then take it to the next level. So digital coaching has been something that I’m doing much more of. It’s very cost effective, because there’s no travel involved for both parties. And I can do my feedback when suits me, and the clients can read that and listen to that feedback when suits them. It’s much more flexible. So a big threat has been elearning, but a big opportunity has been that technology has enabled digital coaching, which allows me to work with people all over the world.

Andrew: Martin, thank you so much for being with us today. How can people find you if they want to learn more about you and your work?

Martin: Well, two best place to find me are on Linkedin, so if you type in my name, Martin Brooks and the word impact, I should come up pretty close to the top, or on Twitter impacttologist, the word impact, then tologist. So two Ts in the middle, and I’m easily found on either LinkedIn or there on Twitter.

Andrew: This has been the Actionable Futurist podcast. You can find me in past shows at, and if you like what you heard on the show, then please give us a like and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform. You can also hire me to speak at your next management offsite or customer event. More details on what I speak about with video replays can also be found at

Until next time, I’m The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill.