All posts by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, coach, blogger, podcaster, speaker and workshop facilitator on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

How To Find Your Story and Make it Into a Powerful Presentation

Truly great stories and presentations live on in the hearts and minds of audiences the world over, that’s a FACT. Everyone has an innate storytelling ability, that’s another FACT.
You just need to think about a time when you were with friends (or strangers!) in a bar or other social setting to know that you’re a natural born storyteller.

Why is that? Because when you’re in a friendly setting, you can be yourself, and you’ll use really direct language (no jargon) to make sure what you say is engaging.

These experiences show that we all have that innate sense of what makes a good story, but we tend to forget that a great presentation is simply a great story and we can also at times struggle to express our natural and true self.

How To Be a Brilliant Storyteller and Great Presenter

The first step to being a brilliant storyteller and great presenter is finding your unique story. But how do you do that? Let’s go back to that social setting and work through the following 5 steps and I’ll share how I used these steps to find my story.

First a little background:

My area of work is people development, I work with a team of performing and visual artists to deliver training programmes which combine learning and development strategies with skills and techniques from the Arts. So, working with the 5 steps:

5 Steps to Finding Your Unique Story

Begin by thinking about where your passions lie:
What topics are you most likely going to be talking about?
What are the things that excite you?
What are the subject matters that make you feel you have something to say?

I’m passionate about learning and development – my own and others. I’m also passionate about The Arts, and this is what excites me and what I’m most likely going to be talking about, and I happen to have a lot to say on these matters.

Look where you spend your time
What is it you do outside of your work, when your time is valuable, where do you choose to spend it?

I’m always learning, whether I’m listening to podcasts, reading, or taking a course and this together with visiting Galleries, Museums, going to the Cinema and Theatre is where I choose to spend my time. As learning and the Arts are my work, this is what I do on a daily basis and at weekends for both work and leisure.

Look where you spend your disposable income
What are the things you spend your money on? – your interests or hobbies.

This is also where I spend my money: Learning and the Arts: I recently did a course on Radio Theatre, which was so interesting and great fun. Other recent spends include: A preview screening of “Liar” (A new TV show) at the BFI followed by a Q&A with the writers, director and leading actor. I’ve just booked tickets to see “Glengarry Glen Ross” which is coming to the West-End, and “Girl From The North Country” – written and directed by Conor McPherson with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan.

Think about your struggles
In tough times, what did you do?
What kind of uncertainties did you feel?

I changed my career from Investment Banking to Career Coaching, returning to college as a mature student, that was a struggle because it was a juggling act initially, I worked to bring in much needed income while studying and gaining practical experience to launch my new career and business.

I felt great uncertainty about whether I could make that transition and if I could make a living from it, there have been many tough times getting things started and keeping them going. I’ve gotten through those by persistence, determination and a positive attitude – I keep on going because I believe our work has a positive impact on people development programmes, and working with learning and the Arts, makes it easy to remain positive.

Discover your Eureka moment
What was the moment you had your greatest realisation?

There was a further struggle that led me to discovering my ‘Eureka’ moment: Once qualified, while the one to one coaching work came easily to me, workshops and presentations didn’t. I was so incredibly nervous that I would be physically ill before talking in front of people. I was also very inhibited and not my natural self and to top all of that off I became very wooden!

To overcome this I undertook a Foundation year in Drama along with several shorter acting courses and a year long Directing Course, which led me to being Assistant Director on a production of Hamlet that went on to being performed at the RSC Open Space in Stratford Upon Avon (My claim to fame!)

This is when I had my ‘Eureka’ moment of how the techniques, structures and methods of theatre making are significant in the world of people development. The unique skills sets performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This excited me because I knew with my background in learning and development I could collaborate with artists to create meaningful learning programmes.

That’s how I found my story and it has been helpful in establishing my Company Brand, and in business and networking situations helping me to talk about what I do. It’s also been helpful in developing presentations and pitches for work.

But what about Presentations? how can you adapt your unique story to help you deliver a great presentation that people are going to want to listen to?

Making Your Story Into a Powerful Presentation

You need to think about the single purpose of your presentation, the one principle that is most central to what you want to accomplish.

Let me demonstrate with a presentation I’m currently working on. This is part of an application process for funding to deliver community projects.

First a little further background:

As well as working with the Arts in the workplace through people development programmes, I’m also passionate about bringing the joy and benefits of the Arts to the community. This includes retirement homes and to people who are living with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Here’s how my Story/Presentation is shaping up:

“My love of the Arts came from my parents, music, song and dance and my mum was also an avid Columbo fan. (I’ll include that last part depending on my audience, more about that in another post, when I’ll talk about adapting your presentation to your audience to use references and/or humour – or not!).

Sadly towards the end of my mum’s life she developed dementia, which progressed quite rapidly and she had to go into a retirement home as she required round the clock care. As a family we felt we’d lost her, the dementia took away aspects of her personality and parts of her memory, she just wasn’t the same anymore and it was heart breaking.

When we went to visit she always knew us, but as soon as we left she wouldn’t remember we’d been there. We also couldn’t have a conversation with her, because she just couldn’t remember things and she’d become frustrated and agitated, it was too upsetting for her.

Every couple of weeks a singer would go into the home and have a sing-song with the residents, and when she did, my mum would sing along and she’d remember every single word of every single song, and she’d be talking about it for days afterwards. It lifted her mood immediately and she was so much happier and calmer.

This is why I want to work with a team of performing artists, to create a programme of events bringing music, song and dance to the lives of people who have Dementia and Alzheimer’s. I know the joys, benefits and well-being it will bring.”

My one purpose: To help people understand the immediate and lasting impact these programmes will have on people’s lives.

Wish me luck!

Next time I’ll talk about the second step in How To Be a Brilliant Storyteller and Great Presenter: How to Bring Your Story to Life for Powerful Presentations.

Explore our Open Courses: How To Deliver Great Presentations Incorporating Story

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The 3 P’s: Persistence Passion Purpose

The HubSpot Growth Show is great: the stories truly inspiring and serve to remind us that success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes persistence, determination, a lot of pulling ourselves back up, following a path when we don’t know if and when it’s going to happen for us, while remaining true to our passion, gut instinct and purpose.

images-1At the weekend I saw the actress Denise Gough give what has been credited as the West End performance of the year in People Places Things. I read afterwards that in 2012 when she received the critics award for most promising newcomer, she respectively said she’d been around for 10 years. Despite the award she then went on to have a period of 1 year before People Places Things where she had no work. She applied for and didn’t get a cleaning job and was about to give up on her dream when it finally happened for her.

Was it a lucky break? NO, it was sheer persistence, determination, a lot of pulling herself back up, following her path and staying true to her passion, gut instinct and purpose.


How to Deliver Bad News

imagesHow to Deliver Bad News

Sharing bad news is not easy, you need to be straightforward in saying the toughest stuff, then listen and work through people’s response and say what you’re going to do next.

The Steps:

Preparing Mentally

Prepare yourself mentally for sharing bad news, by understanding how you naturally respond to difficult conversations, you will be able to make small adjustments for immediate impact. To do this you need to recognise your emotional triggers, you can achieve this by:

Paying close attention over time to your reactions: journalling is a great tool for keeping track of your triggers, write down how you felt at the time, review and identify the emotions that provoked strong and intense reactions
Familiarise yourself with how your body reacts to your emotions, for example: your heart beating faster, your body tensing, a sick feeling in your stomach, you’ll then be able to manage those emotions before they manage you
Having this awareness of your emotional triggers will allow you to make changes in the moment: taking a deep breath, counting to 10 or calling time out are simple yet effective steps

Speaking Emphatically

Prepare what you are going to say from a place of empathy and humility. Don’t sugar coat the truth, instead say what you have to say and phrase it in a way that others know you respect their humanity and then say what you’re going to do next. To achieve this:

Have clarity on what you want to say, ensure you step into the conversation calmly by rehearsing the conversation ahead of time
Know the key points you want to communicate in case emotions highjack your brain, and remember your ‘time out’ plan
Prepare how you will respond constructively to whatever accusations, grievances, or upsets that may be brought up, you can do this by considering the range of possible responses and highly emotional reactions

Managing Emotions

The conversation you’re about to have will most likely evoke a strong reaction. Emotions are the most present, pressing and sometimes most painful force in our lives. Prepare to manage emotions by:

Setting the emotional tone: The more sensitive the issue, the more rapidly emotions can escalate
Learning how to see things from other’s perspective, not as “you in their shoes” but as them, by really listening to their response and allowing them to tell their story
Countering emotional reactions with humility, when you share something difficult it’s natural for people to have an emotional reaction

Following these 3 steps will help you to develop a straightforward approach in saying the toughest stuff, to be open and honest about bad situations, and to navigate difficult situations with dignity for everyone impacted.

Evolving Careers Players run Masterclasses in Courageous Conversations. Experiential learning which is fast, focussed and intense: Each masterclass last 90 minutes and gets you practising your new found know-how through role-playing every day work-based situations.

To find out more about our Courageous Conversations Masterclasses visit:


Interviews: The Opening Question: Tell me about Yourself

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The Opening – Setting the Scene – Steps to Crafting Your Inspiring Story

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” Oscar Wilde

Many interviews will start with the same prompt “Tell me about yourself”

Standard responses are along the lines of: “I studied (Major X) because I really wanted to make a difference in (Industry Y) and as you can see from my CV through my last job at (Company Z) I …

To move beyond this standard response to stand out from the crowd from the outset you need to craft “Your Inspiring Story” to show who you are as a person, not just a professional. To give meaning to what you will bring to the role and organisation.

The way your life has evolved, the things you’ve learned, your achievements, failures, dreams – these things are unique to you and make you more interesting than you perhaps realise. A good story is not a replication of your CV or LinkedIn profile, you need to go beyond that.

Steps to crafting your story:

Take an inventory of the chapters of your life – turning points that shaped who you are – what you learned, accomplished and experienced
Focus on memorable “aha” moments – vivid dimensions so people experience that moment with you
Uncover the themes in your story – what emerges as your passion – mentoring, research, relationship building, advancing knowledge …

A Masterclass and the Power of Words

imagesI was at a Masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in which the Actor Mark Strong shared his experience of the industry and his career before hosting a Q and A. One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character – to understand the essence of their being. His reply was that’s its in the writing and he gets everything he needs from the words, he spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller.

It was a very simple yet powerful answer, because words have the power to change the world. Think of the four words, “I have a dream”. The moment they enter your mind, you know who said them and why. They are a call to action, and a call to find the best part of ourselves, because words have the power to arouse every emotion.

Words are fundamental in our lives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for. Just as Mark used the words written to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams though the words we use to communicate. Because as people its what we can make with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, plans, understanding, expectations, a past and a future, culture, ways of seeing …. the list is endless and the power is simply ‘powerful’.

Whenever we communicate there is much at stake, and perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing your next presentation or key note speech, to help your process, consider the following techniques actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words, that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:

They are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires and allows the actor to step in and become the character.

You can apply this technique by following the ‘Thought Leaders’ in your industry: study them as the actor does to gain valuable insights into their characters and stories. Use the same approach to understand what’s happening outside of your industry and sector, to recognise successful trends, practices, and behaviours that could make a difference to your world. Harvard and Forbes are good sources for promoting excellent communicators and leaders and people worth reading. Another excellent source is The growth Show from HubSpot, a business podcast for leaders featuring conversations with people who have achieved remarkable growth. The Growth Show from HubSpot

Interestingly writers are often recommended to take an acting course to follow this same process, because particularly in the early stages of developing a concept, they need to get to know their characters inside and out and learning to live in a character’s skin, the same way actors do sharpens their innate ability to substitute and imagine emotionally truthful stories. Maybe its time to take an acting class to develop your voice – technically to develop a great speaking voice and also to develop your unique character voice that will motivate, inspire and impact those listening to you.

In the meantime you can draw on your learnings from your reading, research and analysis to adapt this process to the concept, message, idea you want to communicate, by following these three steps:

1. Begin by understanding the bigger picture in the same way Dr. Martin Luther King did. He had a deep rooted understanding of the world he existed in, the challenges and problems, and the changes that needed to take place to move beyond this. You will need the same understanding of the world/industry/organisation/team you operate in.

2. Dr. King took time to get to know people at grass roots level, to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges, you need to stand in the shoes of your audience to understand your world from different perspectives. These are the first steps in developing your message to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and show respect of other’s point of view.

3. Having an understanding of both the big and small picture – the world you operate in and the individuals within that world, provides the backdrop to your story (script, concept, idea, message), as well as an understanding of the fundamental words you need to use that have the power to arouse every emotion, and how to deliver them with the greatest impact that demands a call to action.

Evolving Careers Players can help you make an impact through the power of words. The techniques of performing arts are at the core of our work. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

You can check out our programmes:


Thinking is the Ultimate Human Resource

imagesBecause I help people in career transition, I sometimes get asked by people if I’m always able to tell people what job they should be doing and I have to explain that that’s not what I do. What I actually do is facilitate the process which allows people to come to this realisation themselves, in essence I help people to have clarity in their thinking and as I said in an earlier post if we have a question, problem or situation we also have the answer or solution.

My programmes also support job search, and I get asked if I always get people a job, to which I reply: ‘my role is to support people in getting the job themselves’. This may all sound very cliché but when I’m performing in my role at my very best, I’m merely the facilitator in helping people do things for themselves. I meet with my clients weekly, fortnightly or whatever time-frame which allows them to carry out the objectives agreed on in our session, and I always say to clients that the best work takes place away from the sessions, whether that’s research, networking or marketing themselves, these are the actions that will drive their programme in line with their needs and objectives outlined at the outset of our work together.

I sometimes use the analogy of a sports coach and the world of Career, Leadership and Executive Coaching evolved from the world of sport.  Many of my clients will have worked with a sports coach or personal trainer or will have an understanding of how these people help their clients – individuals or teams get the most from their performance, they don’t go out and play a game or do their fitness programme for them, they do however walk alongside them , supporting their motivation, determination and persistence in achieving their goals, they help them to continuously improve their performance and to be in a position to achieve things for themselves.

Clients will want to achieve the objectives outlined at the beginning of their programme for themselves. This gives them great satisfaction and the skills they gain throughout the process remain with them and indeed help to progress their career to the next level, because of their ability to recognise what’s unique about themselves in terms of their skills, experience, knowledge and attributes. This allows them to be confident in communicating this and effectively marketing themselves, whether in writing – job application, CV, and cover letter, or in person – interviews, or in networking situations. The experience they gain in building their networks in their chosen field also remains with them and gives them the impetuous to continue to develop strong relationships, allowing them to easily navigate and progress their career when the time is right.

I truly believe Thinking is the ultimate human resource and once people are confident in their ability to think for themselves and believe they have the answers they need within them, this instils the belief they can do for themselves. The ultimate satisfaction for me in my work is when my clients are confident in thinking and doing for themselves and creative thinking promotes creative doing.

Evolving Careers Players can help you manage and develop your career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

Mrs Beetons Christmas Puddings

????????????????????????????????????????My brother is an amazing cook and dinner at his house is always a culinary delight. As we both live in London we’ve shared many Christmas dinners with our respective family and friends. I remember one Christmas dinner when we were finishing our meal with a traditional Christmas pudding which he had made and I relayed a story of the first Christmas pudding I made.

It was in my first year in secondary school. I gave the pudding to my sister and her family as a Christmas gift but when she opened it, she found it had gone mouldy! My brother relayed a similar story about Mrs Beeton, who secured an order for her Christmas puddings from Fortnum and Mason – the wonderful British Food Emporium who for three centuries have been committed to bringing the world’s best food to Piccadilly. (In their own words) Now unfortunately for Mrs Beeton the Christmas puddings she made which were distributed in their Christmas hampers to their elite clients suffered a similar fate to mine – they were mouldy. Ooops!

This lead the conversation to Mrs Beeton, who perhaps was the Martha Stewart of her day. I originally thought she was a woman who had many years experience as a cook but the truth is she set out to develop her cooking ability at the age of 21 when she undertook a writing assignment to write a guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain, the book contained over 900 recipes and also gained the name ‘Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook’.

Mrs Beeton was an accomplished pianist, having studied music in Heidelberg, however she established her career in writing when she married her husband who was a publisher of books and magazines and she began to write articles on cooking and household management for his publications. The rest as they say is history.

I expect Mrs Beeton would have developed her career even further or indeed developed a new career as I’m sure you’ll agree she was a woman of many talents but sadly she died aged 28. Similarly to Mrs Beeton we all have the potential to develop new skills that will allow us to perform in the career of our choice and in line with the demands of the role, I also believe we all have the capacity and capability to have a number of careers in our lifetime and the proof of that I guess in the pudding – or maybe not!

Evolving Careers Players can help you manage and develop your skills and career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs: