21st March 2018 0


Despite all of the modern communications technology at our disposal, presentations are still the most powerful and persuasive tool we have to convince people that we’re their best choice.

Presentations are part and parcel of working life. Love them or loathe them there’s no escaping them.

Over the last 25 years in the PR industry, I’ve delivered hundreds of presentations – some great, some good and yes, some dreadful. But how do you avoid going bright red and wishing the floor would open up beneath you?

Someone once told me, that for every ten minutes of presenting time, you should rehearse for an hour. So, a 20 minute presentation needs at least two hours preparation. I guess this does depend on your personality, confidence and experience of presenting though. One thing is for sure though, the more preparation you do, the better the presentation will be.

Fill The Set-Up Silence
You need to be confident as soon as you enter the room. If you’re using PowerPoint or another presentation programme or if the presentation is on a USB stick and needs loading onto a laptop, then there’s going to be a period of silence while you set up. Think about how you can fill this period. What questions can you ask? What little story about your trip to the venue can you tell? If you have some colleagues with you, can they engage your audience in some way while you set up the IT equipment? Getting off to a good start is crucial.

Be Confident, Be Bold
The opening of your presentation needs to grip the audience. It needs to engage them. It needs to tell them what great things await them. No one wants to sit through a dull presentation. If you’re not confident and bold at the start, people could switch off.

Speak Slowly & Breathe
When we’re nervous we breathe quicker and talk faster. If you get nervous when presenting, deliberately slow down the pace of your voice. Your nerves will work against your slower tone, and ensure you’re speaking at normal speed. Focus also on breathing. Deliberate deep breaths will also help to slow your voice down.

Don’t Read Out Your Slides
If you’re using PowerPoint and your slides are mainly text – don’t read each line out word for word. The audience is already doing this. You need to add to the words on the screen. What else can you tell the audience about these key points?

Don’t Have (Too Many) Words On Your Slides
Do you really need words on your slide? Could a picture be more useful? Replacing words with pictures will focus your audience on what you’re saying. They will have to actively listen to you to connect the picture to the points you’re making. If you can’t or don’t want to lose all the words from a slide, try to limit them. Six lines of text with no more than six to ten words on each line is a reasonable ambition. Guy Kawasaki recommends that presentations follow the 10-20-30 Rule: no more than 10 slides, no longer than 20 minutes and no less than 30 point for the font used in the presentation.

Be Confident, Don’t Hide
Try to project a confident image. Move out from behind a lectern. Use your hands to illustrate key points (but don’t go overboard), smile and try to enjoy your moment. Make eye contact with people and hold it as you deliver a point. Don’t break eye contact with someone half way through a point as it will look like you’re uncertain about what you’re saying.

Do You Really Have To Stand Up?
If you’re presenting to a small group of people, do you really need to stand up in front of them? Probably not. Why not make the presentation a little bit more informal by presenting off a laptop on the table next to you. You can then sit down and look your audience in the eye and make the whole experience a little bit more relaxed while still being professional.

Tell People What You’re Going To Say
Presentations require a bit of repetition. The best presentations open with the speaker telling people what they’re about to hear, then they tell them and finally, they wrap up by telling people what they’ve heard. Have a look at some of Steve Jobs’ presentations when launching Apple devices and you’ll see what I mean.

Thank People For Their Time
When you come to the end of your presentation, thank your audience. They’ve given you their time and if you thank them for listening, you should receive a thank you in return (maybe even applause) and that should give you a great sense of satisfaction and put you in a great mood to take questions from your audience.

I hope these tips help you when planning and delivering your next presentation. And remember, Clinton, Trump, May and Corbyn have spoken in public for years and have much more experience than us. Presenting takes practice.


14th September 2016 0


Around this time two years ago Facebook was full of people pouring freezing cold water over themselves or others. This summer, it appears the #22PushUpChallenge in aid of Combat Stress is the latest awareness campaign to capture the imagination. But why? What has made these two campaigns so successful?

As someone involved in marketing, I am always trying to make things as simple as possible. If you want people to buy your product, dine at your restaurant, choose your IT company over another, then you need to give them clear and persuasive reasons to do so.

The simpler your messages, the easier they will be to communicate to people. What the ALS ICE Bucket Challenge and #22PushUpChallenge campaigns have done so successfully is to identify what their most persuasive key messages should be. Then they came up with a simple, accessible, easy and shareable way to communicate those messages.

In the case of the push up challenge, a US Marine decided that because 22 veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder commit suicide each day, he would raise awareness of this by filming himself doing 22 push ups a day for 22 days. He published the videos on Facebook. After seeing the videos, lots of other people decided to do the same; most likely for several reasons.

They wanted to support a worthwhile cause – donating to Combat Stress or funding research into Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neuron disease.

Perhaps, it was because both activities were fairly simple things to do – pouring cold water over someone or doing push-ups don’t take long to set up and the instructions are really clear.

There’s an element of enjoyment and fun in both, especially watching the expressions and reactions of someone when ice cold water hits them! The light hearted nature of the campaign and the use of video are ideal for sharing across social media. The footage and photos taken by onlookers was perfect for YouTube, Instagram and Twitter as well as Facebook, which further increases the campaign’s reach.

Both campaigns gained momentum quickly as there was a sense of urgency. In the ICE Bucket Challenge people had to act within 24 hours of being nominated, which allowed the campaign to spread. The push up challenge is more of a commitment but people are doing it and 22 days highilghts the number of daily suicides and increases the chance of people seeing the videos.

A final thought, is that both campaigns make people feel better. Participants are helping genuinely good causes and having a good experience at the same time. There’s also a sense of community, being part of a group of people all taking part in the same activity. Receiving that nomination invites you to join the community, which is a very powerful motivator – we like to be involved in things that our friends are doing and don’t want to be left out.

Capturing people’s imagination and encouraging them to participate in something is really difficult and for every #22PushUpChallenge or ALS Ice Bucket Challenge there are lots of less successful campaigns but by keeping things simple and trying to include an element of fun, urgency, sharing and reward you’ll have a better chance of engaging with people.


15th August 2016 0


Our success in promoting Festival800, a city-wide celebration of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary, has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

Our campaign for the cultural response and celebration of Magna Carta, which took place in August 2015, has been shortlisted in the Best Integrated Campaign and Best Arts, Culture and Sports categories of the CIPR PRide awards, which celebrate outstanding Public Relations activity across the UK.

Organised by cultural solutions UK on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council and supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Festival800 offered ten days of live music, comedy, spoken word, street theatre, lectures and debate. Artists such as Billy Bragg and the Levellers; author, screenwriter and comedian Shappi Khorsandi; YouTube sensation Alfie Deyes; Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL; were joined by a host of national and international artists and human rights activists, including the family of US Civil Rights Icon, Rosa Parks, in Lincoln for the festival.

David Lambert, director of cultural solutions UK, who appointed Lava to the brief said: “With such an eclectic cultural programme we needed an equally eclectic team of professionals to reach and engage the potential diverse audiences. We could not have secured the services of a more switched on, professional agency. Lava surprised us in all the right ways. They worked with us to create an innovative marketing campaign within budget and on time. It was a fantastic relationship! I wish them every success at the awards and hope to work with them again.”

Established in 2006, Lava is no stranger to success in the PRide Awards having won eight Gold and Silver awards since 2009. “We are about to celebrate our tenth anniversary and two more awards, our ninth and tenth CIPR Pride wins, would be fantastic birthday presents,” says Lava’s managing director, Matt Hammerton. “We have a particularly strong track record of delivering effective campaigns for clients in the arts and cultural sectors. We’re really looking forward to a trip to Leeds in November and hopefully adding another two trophies to our collection.”

The CIPR PRide Awards recognise the best in public relations across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. Over 1,000 entries were received from freelancers, agencies and in-house teams the length and breadth of the UK.

Lava, which is the only agency from Lincolnshire to be shortlisted, will find out if they’ve won either award on 24th November.



12th August 2016 0


Love it or loath it, there will be no escaping the return of Premiership Football this weekend.

Thousands of people, young and old, will spend hundreds of pounds on tickets, travel, shirts and match day programmes as they support their team with a passion – something the majority of brands and companies can only dream of creating.

So, what can marketers learn from football (and other sports for that matter)? Quite a bit, I think, and here’s four points that immediately spring to mind.

Easy to understand
Football is a simple game. Yes, the offside rule might confuse some, but essentially everyone, even if they don’t watch football, follow a team or dislike the game, knows what the teams are trying to do: put the ball in the net more times than the opposition. All of the teams approach this goal in slightly different ways but the objective is straightforward.
Can you say the same about your product or service? Many businesses fall into the trap of over-complicating the benefits of their product or service. Yes, sometimes, products do really complicate things, which is all the more reason to make sure you can explain what you do and what you do differently and better in easy to understand terms.

A shared experience
Football brings people together. Whether it be 80,000 at Old Trafford or 800 at Gainsborough, people watch the game together. It’s a shared experience and for some, what happens off the pitch is as important as the game: meeting friends, sharing opinions, catching up and having a laugh, it’s not all about the product.

Is it possible for brands to copy this? Yes. Think of your shop as a football ground. Is it easy to get to? Does it look good? Does the décor match your wide branding and design work? Are your products easy to see? Do people like visiting you?

The shared experience extends beyond physical things like stadiums. There’s a collective passion for the team. Some brands apparently come close to replicating this emotion – ‘Apple Fan Boys’: people who are so passionate about the company, they have to have the latest device.

A lot of people, much more intelligent than me, have written about how following football touches humans’ natural desire to be part of a ‘tribe’, a group of like-minded people, with the same values and a common interest.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your customers had the same feelings about your product or service? What could you do to connect with your customers? How could you engage with them and build a community they feel part of? A bit of social media activity perhaps?

An evolving story
Football is an ever-evolving story. When one season ends, it’s only a couple of months until the next one starts. Even in the close season, things are happening. Yes, football is the national game, and the back pages are dominated by it but this is because the clubs are very good at creating and issuing stories. Keeping people interested and committed requires regular communication with them. This is true for all brands – not just football clubs: turbine manufacturers, potato growers, cafes and restaurants: all of them need to keep their ‘fans’ engaged.

A life-long commitment
Football clubs work incredibly hard to gain the attention of young people. If they start supporting a club at an early age, there’s a strong chance they will stay loyal for life. From sales promotions – kids go free, £1 seats or free season tickets for Under 12s – the football clubs know that once a parent and their children have experienced a game together there’s a strong chance they’ll be back. It doesn’t matter if the team lost, there’s always next week and another special offer or incentive just round the corner.

How many businesses would like to have life-long customers? What can you do to attract new people? How can you make their experience so good that they keep coming back again and again (and even if, sometimes, results don’t quite go their way)?

There are lots of other things we, as marketers, can learn from football – the importance of pricing, managing bad news and disappointing results, adding other products and services to complement the main offering and bring in additional revenue and maybe we’ll look at those in a future column.

So regardless of whether you’re a season ticket holder, an arm chair fan or dislike the beautiful game with a passion, if you’re involved in promoting a business or service, thinking about how football clubs, like Manchester United and Real Madrid, have grown into some of the world’s most profitable brands could be well worth 90 minutes of your time!


22nd June 2016 0


Earlier this year, Twitter drew the attention of many by teasing that its character limit would rise by over 7000% to 10,000 – a major change for a platform centred around being brief. For now, though, it seems this idea has been put on the back-burner, with Twitter execs deciding to instead focus efforts on providing users with more characters without impacting the unique experience offered by the platform.


20th May 2016 0


At the beginning of the week, all the talk about Manchester United focused on their cancelled game against Bournemouth.

The team’s many sponsors will understand the media attention on the discovery of a suspicious package within Old Trafford but quite a few people will be disappointed that their promotional plans didn’t come off.