Category Archives: Career Stories

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

Sign up to our Newsletter. Each month we feature the benefits of different dramatic interventions and their application within the workplace

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.


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:

Create the Next Chapter of Your Career and Life Story

imagesThere have been a few turning points in my life that have caused me to stop and think about what’s important to me and to consider what I want from my work and my life outside of work. Sadly one of those occasions was when my brother died aged just 41. He had lived very much in the present and enjoyed the simple things in life. I remember his wife telling me how in the summer once their four girls were in bed, they’d sit in their garden and watch the sun set.

As well as bringing up four daughters they also gave their time generously to supporting the families who had been impacted by the Chernobyl disaster and every summer they would have children from Chernobyl stay with them. It was important for them to give back or indeed give forward. Thinking about my brother caused me to realise that I needed to live in the present and make everyday worthwhile. I took a step back to evaluate my most important values and consider what needed to change in my work and my life to honour these.

I’d worked in Investment Banking for several years and while I enjoyed the work and worked with great people, it also afforded me a great lifestyle. However the hours were long and I wasn’t spending as much time with my family as I would have liked. I made the decision to leave banking and set up in business myself.

This took time as first I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next and then I needed to retrain. It was quite a juggling act initially: working to bring in much needed income while studying and subsequently gaining practical experience to launch my new business and career. Although tough it was extremely enjoyable and from the outset I was carving a lifestyle in line with my needs and values. Now I both plan for tomorrow and live for today. At times it can be extremely challenging but its also extremely rewarding.

When I begin working with a client who’s considering a career change, quite often it’s because of a particular turning point in their life and they’ve come to realise that life is too short for them not to be living it fully.

In light of the reality that life is short, what are the important elements you need to include in your life to ensure you’re fulfilled and motivated in both your work and your life outside of work? To get started in your thinking take time to reflect on the following questions:

▪ What do you want to accomplish? Contribute? Complete? Create or build?
▪  What legacy or reputation do you want to leave behind?

Perhaps now is the time to create the next chapter of your life story.

Evolving Careers Players can you help you manage and develop your career and life chapters.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:

How to Answer Bizarre Interview Questions – Such as: How would you count the hairs on a cat!

imagesA client was asked this question when he was interviewing for a project management role at an investment bank in the City and was given a pen and paper, and calculator! to work it out. He was thankful of this because it gave him time to gather his thoughts and while he didn’t calculate he did scribble down a few thoughts.

His answer was: “He’d weigh one hair, then shave the cat and weigh all the hair he shaved off, he’d then divide the overall hair weight by the individual hair weight to get the number of hairs on the cat. He got the job!

What the interviewers were looking for was a candidate who could demonstrate their ability to think on the spot, showing creativity and intuitiveness as well as logical and practical thinking, including how they would go about solving difficult and even unusual challenges that might arise, and also to have conviction in their answer and the confidence to communicate this. The interviewer is more interested in how you get to an answer, as opposed to what the answer might be.

Such challenging questions are becoming ever more commonplace in interviews it seems, as employers seek to get past the polish and hire the best candidate. With so many self-help websites, candidates can be quite polished on standard interview questions, making it difficult for people to stand out if they ask the routine questions, so doing things differently will help them get to the best candidate.

Evolving Careers Players can help you “Get past the polish to hire the best candidate”. We support our clients in their selection process by devising role-play for real-play workplace scenarios, including a few quirky situations!, allowing you to get to know each candidate beyond ‘canned’ answers. They’re having to react in the moment allowing you to find the right person that both fits your company culture and can refresh your business with new ideas.

We deliver corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios, career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, Get in touch to discuss your requirements:

Check out one of the role-play scenarios we set up for a client who wanted a candidate to demonstrate how she would manage a team member who is resistant to being managed by a younger manager.

What completely engages you in your work?

imagesWhat is it you find yourself doing when you’re completely engrossed and the time just passes by and you have to remind yourself to stop to eat and before you know it the morning has turned into evening and you can still continue with what you’re doing into the night. For me, lately it’s writing and I say lately as I suppose part of me wonders if this is just a passing phase and if my thought process will dry up soon.

Why do I want to write? Because as Colin Firth said in his role as George V1 in the ‘Kings Speech’ ‘I have a voice’ and I’m discovering writing to be a great expression of that, and being the reflective soul I am, writing is a more natural medium for me to get my thinking out there, as opposed to impromptu speaking– as Mark Twain once said ‘it takes me three weeks to prepare for an impromptu speech’

My professional/personal development is important to me, as I expect it is for many people and for some of you it will be an important perk of the job, i.e. you’re fortunate that support to continue to progress and develop your career is part of your reward package. However what do you do if the training budget has been frozen, or like me you need to fund your own learning and development or you want to develop skills for something you aspire to do in the future and can’t get buy in from your HR department to approve this because they can’t see how it will support you in your current role and actually you don’t really want them to know about it anyway.

The good news is there are ways to gain skills that will serve you in progressing your career path in the direction of your choice and this can be done in a manner that fits into your life/work and is cost effective.

For example once I knew I wanted my next career to be about supporting individuals in their career learning and development (In a previous life I worked in Investment Banking) I undertook studies in Career Coaching and Career Management at Birbeck University. This was a significant investment but knowing the work I aspired to do, I knew to be able to support others I needed a good theoretical foundation that I could then personalise to my client needs. This has led me to where I am and I’m thoroughly enjoying my client work and learn so much through my clients.

And so to continue my own learning and development and move my career in the direction I want to, I’ve identified that I want to develop my research and development skills along with my writing skills and for the moment I’m not going to invest in any specific training to do this but instead I’m adapting a hands on approach of just getting stuck in and building a little of this into my day/week .

The purpose of this is to become a specialist in my area by staying up to date with what’s going on in my industry and discovering new ways of doing things and as a result be able to support my clients in a manner that draws on expertise, is fresh, interesting, creative, innovative and fun.

Other areas I want to develop are my technical ability, and my marketing skills – in the past I have to admit to being a little phobic about technology. So, to facilitate this development need, I built my first websites and I’m learning all about social media and I have to say I’m really enjoying it and of course it’s a double whammy because along the way I’m developing my business and my business skills – so a win/win really.

If I can do it so can you, just think about what you’re doing when you’re completely engaged and build more of this into your day and think about the skills you want to develop and you’ll find ways to take a hands on approach to make this happen.

And what if as an aspiring writer my thought process does dry up and I develop writer’s block as they say, well that’s when the romantic side of me kicks in and I think I’ll take myself off to a beautiful location, perhaps a French or Italian home that  has a vineyard for a backyard… My creative juices are sure to flow once more – or it might just seem that way a vintage or two later!

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:

From the World of Publishing to Companion Animal Practioner, Making Personalised Dinnerware for Discerning Pets and Dog Walking

imagesI’m sharing Janet’s story by way of demonstrating that if you can conceive an idea you can achieve it. It will take planning, preparation, the necessary training and development, a good business plan and strategy, but as Janet discovered you just need to take the first step and the rest of your journey will unfold along the way.

Janet worked in the publishing industry, it was a natural fit because of her love of literature and she was happy there for many years. However as time went on Janet’s interests in other areas grew and developed. As well as being very creative Janet has always had a strong passion for animals and with her partner has two beautiful cocker spaniels and a cat called Taj.

It’s always good to make time for your interests and hobbies outside of work and for most people this is enough, while for others this can lead to building a business in line with their passions. This is what happened for Janet.

She first enrolled on a ceramics course making art ceramics and her obvious talent was recognised early which resulted in her work being displayed in galleries in the UK and Germany. Although a major achievement it didn’t bring in a lot of money. By way of‘ a filler’ as Janet figured out what to do with the art ceramics she began making dog bowls.

The reason she focussed on this specifically was because her own two dogs being cocker spaniels had long floppy ears which got in the way when they were eating and so she designed a bowl that helped to overcome this problem. The bowls proved to be so popular that Janet decided to let the arty stuff fall by the wayside and focus on building the bowls (for both dogs and cats) as a business. She developed a website to market her wares and this took off overnight and the orders came flooding in and her business was featured in Vogue magazine 2010. Because she was doing this alongside her day job, she had a waiting list and her clients were quite happy with this, after all they were getting a unique gift for their much loved pet.

Phase one of Janet’s new career and business was underway and although it wasn’t exactly planned it had in essence evolved from nurturing her creative ability. Then through her love of animals she came across TTouch, which is a therapy used in training, handling and rehabilitation of companion animals. She undertook the training needed to develop her skills and ability to set herself up in practice as a TTouch Therapist. Having gone through the process she has now established herself and has developed a new website to market her services. Along with word of mouth it’s amazing how quickly the word is spreading and her business is developing and she is working as a Companion Animal Practioner.

As phase two was developing Janet had the realisation that she was now in a position to move away from her publishing career and become self-employed, she needed to develop her business plan and strategy to ensure the timing was right and she had everything in place she needed to make a smooth transition. Obviously for anyone leaving a secure job where they know they have a salary at the end of each month, they need to take financial considerations into account and be comfortable with their projected income, because Janet established her business alongside her current work, she was in a good position to understand the potential demand and income from her products and services, and so it was from an informed standpoint she planned her transition.

Once she began to talk to people about her plans she actually secured another piece of work to add to her portfolio. As both her and her partner were working full time they engaged the services of a dog walker to exercise their dogs during the week. This is another successful business and once the woman who did the dog walking learnt that Janet was moving on from her permanent job, she asked if she’d like to join her business and do some dog walking when time permitted. This was a win/win situation for both women, Janet has regular paid work on top of her earning potential from her products and services, along with getting paid for her daily exercise! And the other woman can focus on developing her business in the knowledge her client’s dogs are in good hands.

The moral of this story is: even if you don’t know where your journey is taking you, take the first step. I like to use the analogy of driving in a fog: you need to travel from Cornwall to Scotland, but you can only see a few yards ahead as you begin your journey but somehow that’s enough as you know the fog will clear and you move towards your destination at a pace that’s safe and manageable. You may eventually come to a crossroads and when you do, the time you’ve taken thinking and reflecting during your journey will help you figure out which road to take.

Some people will say to me if you don’t know where you’re going how you will know when you get there, others will say not knowing where they’re going may take them along more interesting paths. Just remember we’re all different and there’s no right or wrong path to your destination.

•Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you establish your next 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: