Is character important in a story? Or is the plot more important? Does it only matter what happens to the characters, or what they do – or does it matter who they are and what’s happened to them before matter?

I’ve been reading more about story – in particular screenwriting. There’s a part of me would like to try it sometime, but for now it’s a helpful way to consider more about how stories work – and why they matter.

About balancing?

In “Story” Robert McKee makes the point that neither are more important than they other because without each other they don’t function.

Which I think is fair enough. Do you?

This caught my attention when reading yesterday:

True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the truer the choice [is] to the character’s essential nature - Robert McKee, Story

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the truer the choice [is] to the character’s essential nature”

Doing what needs to be done


A storyteller works hard to create a character, building their personality and helping the audience create empathy, sympathy or a connection of some sort. They have the great challenge of making sure we know only the things about them to know what they’re like so that we are invited into the story.

So when telling a story, character matters as much as plot.

Developing their identity doesn’t come at the cost of your story bringing to life their current transformation. Nope it’s part of the mix in why the story matters. The events are crucial to bring about change – and we need to know the context of the change that’s taking place, right?

In our story

Our character develops through time – often unseen to others. And at times unseen by us. And there’s always the risk that without some intentional development, our character might not turn out the way we hope. Or we don’t realise it can be any different.

I sometimes think there’s a tension between “it’s just who I am” and “I can be anything I want to be”.

My story continues

As I’ve been a little quiet on the internet recently, for a number of reasons, I’ve been challenging why I started this work in the first place – what are my motives.

You see, I firmly believe that a person’s character matters. Who they are is as important as what they do (because in my mind they are completely linked). I get a bit pert

So as there’s been some additional pressure in these recent days, there’s also been a little work on my character. Not hours of navel gazing, just an awareness of what’s happening, and the reasons why – and trying some steps to avoid it.

I guess part of that is understanding where I am, who I’m called to be and what the next step is to get there – all starts with a little more being and less always doing. And hopefully for my children – a little more grace and less grump.

Does character matter?

A lot of people say “what happens behind closed doors doesn’t impact their work-life”. If anything the events of the last few months – #metoo and other things mean exactly the opposite. Who you are is inextricably linked to what you do.

What do you think? How do you build your character?

Working with clients – a speech

Once upon a time…

…there was the joy of celebration – mingled with the dread of expectation.

Your brother shares the great news that he’s getting married. And even better; would like you to be his best man. What an honour.

Then it hits you: you’ll need to give a speech.

You don’t *do* public speaking. You immediately start to tighten up; cold sweat on your forehead and the palms of your hands. In your mind, you can already see it going horribly wrong.

And that’s not all. You love your brother and want to do a great job. And you don’t want to let him – or the rest of your family – down.

TheFear takes hold.

You are not alone

Let me introduce you to Alan Campbell. Alan was in exactly the position I’ve just described. Two months later, Alan gave the speech of his life at his brother’s wedding – and the family and friends gathered for the occasion loved it.

Alan Campbell delivering his speech

Here’s how Alan did it:

Starting your speech

We’d exchanged emails over a few days and after an initial chat over the phone, arranged to have a first session. There we spoke about his brother and future sister-in-law. We talked about the kind of speech he wanted to give – and why. And we looked at ways to structure it while considering some ideas for how to make it a speech that would be memorable for the right reasons.

The ebb and flow of the middle

Alan then started thinking about what he wanted to say, and how he might say it. He wrote a first draft, which we tweaked a few times over email until Alan was happy with the content, the humour and the length.

We then started to think about how it would be delivered. We had another session focussed on delivery, giving practical ways that Alan could use to be confident on the day, and make the most of the words and ideas he’d had and we’d developed together.

There was some moments of uncertainty in there, as well as making sure the speech would be Alan’s and not him pretending to be someone else. That striving for authenticity was not difficult – just important to do as we kept a clear focus on the outcomes Alan wanted to achieve.

Finish well

Then it was over to Alan to rehearse. And rehearse. And rehearse. We kept in touch over this time, until it was finally to deliver the speech.

And he smashed it.

Family feedback was great, Alan was both delighted and relieved that it went as much to plan as it could. And crucially, he did his brother and now-sister-in-law proud.

Your turn next?

It was a real privilege to work with Alan and help him overcome his fears with simple, practical tools and a well-worked speech.

I’d be delighted to help you prepare for an important event – or build your skills for communication at work or with potential clients.

Get in touch and let me know how I can help.

Walking Over the Water

That’s the title of a song sung by Mat Kearney on the album Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest of Us (Spotify).

The other day I was driving to church with the kids and this song came on. The weeWeir, having never heard it before, asked what it was about. I was pleased she asked as I’ve always wanted her to think about the words she hears and what they might mean.

Easy to say?

However, explaining this song to my daughter was never going to be easy. But I did – through the tears.  You see, every time I really listen to this song, I am struck by the stages of the story. Often it will stop be in my tracks and I’m forced to think about the characters being sung about. The way their story is told. The questions asked and truths that are wrestled with.

It’s hardly an original thought to suggest that music is a powerful medium for communicating ideas. And when you tell stories set to music you can get an even deeper connection with the audience (sometimes stories told *through* music don’t always need words too).

Of course they do

And stories do that. Stories feed the imagination and help the audience see themselves part of it – good stories help people see how they can be the hero of their own story.

So how does that work when there’s difficult things to be talked about?

That there is a real question. Some songwriters are masters at challenging their listeners with gentleness and grace. Others are a little more blunt.

We will all have songs – or music – that tell us a story we love. But do we have songs that challenge us to stay sharp, to consider our motives – to hold things rightly.

What’s yours? What do you learn from them?

Sing (or say it) like you mean it

It’s really powerful when you guide your audience through your talk (or communication) and help them see why your idea is worth listening to.  I believe everyone who speaks (or sings) to an audience needs to be there to serve them first. From that posture of helping them you build a stronger connection and create the possibility of inspiring them to action.

Will I sing when delivering my next talk? Only if it will create the right impact on the audience… come along and find out.

Even if I don’t sing, I have to believe what I’m saying – as mentioned last week, it’s got to be about authenticity. What can you do to make your next talk the the more authentic?

Here’s the song:

PS – for a bit more of the story behind the song (written with Phil Madiera, who produced the album), I recommend this blog by Phil.



Adrian Plass wrote briefly about his two rules of public speaking. I read them last night in the book “Seriously Funny” and loved their simplicity, here they are:

1) Never adapt

Simply: be yourself. Be who you are confident, well, being.

2) Always adapt

Be willing and ready to adjust what *you* want to say to meet the needs of the audience and where you are in that moment.


Perhaps more juxtaposition. That we deny the need to show ourselves off, and be willing to adapt – and serve – the audience.

I love how gloriously simple those two ideas are.

Doing 1 means you can focus more on 2 (and actually knowing what you’re talking about). If you’re not trying to pretend to be one of your heroes of presenting then you’re more likely to relax. As we’re in the moment, we’re more able to deliver a great talk.

Last year, on a company intranet, I asked people what was memorable about the last talk they heard. 90% of people who replied said it was the authenticity of the speaker that did it for them. A great place to start then – be yourself. Don’t wear a mask!

And the respect you show your audience – in your preparation of content, practicing your delivery and the permission you give yourself to adjust on-the-fly – all helps make your talk more compelling.

One more?

While there’s a few other thoughts I have, there one that I want to add to this couplet right now is “why”. When you have a positive idea of “why” you want to deliver a great talk and why your audience should care about the content then you’ll be focussed on the outcomes that work for both of you.

Be you so that authenticity is the – adapt how you tell your story to your audience, with your “why” as a way to navigate the flexibility. Easy…. ;->

What do you think of Adrian Plass’ two rules? What would be your “one more”?

Let’s explore

I’ll explore these ideas and loads more at my next workshop. 21 February will be a resource-packed day of looking at how stories work, why they matter and how you can tell them really well.

Find out more

Your story matters – enjoy it

In 2017, I realised there was something missing.

My wife and children were well. We had a roof over our head and food in the cupboard. I had good friends around me. But I’d forgotten what it meant to enjoy work. I was desperately sad about that.
For the previous ten years, I’d been working in a number of roles in a Financial Services business – across both online and offline communications. I’d had a fair amount of variety and learned a ton of good things. And a bunch of stuff to try and avoid.
Lots to be grateful for, but for some reason there was a diminishing impact on the people around me. I’d become unfamiliar to myself. I was heading towards a tunnel that said “I don’t care”.
The business didn’t need that. I didn’t want to live like that. It’s nothing new to reflect that we spend a lot of time working, so we should enjoy it!

So what did I care about?


Plain and simple. Helping people develop, learn and grow was what mattered. I enjoy that. The question was; “what did I have that I could help people develop in?”.


Specifically in helping people create and deliver great presentations. Or talks. Or speeches.
Then I got to thinking that good communication is more than public speaking (as much as I’d love to make that particular thing way better for everyone). It’s about being clear about your message, understanding your audience and being able to articulate it so they can hear you.
Which is the same for marketing a business. So I’m up for helping people with that too.

It’s all about your story.

Great ideas – compelling stories – can inspire people to join a movement, make history, take ownership of their future. Or maybe just take the first step towards recovery.
The key elements of story are crucial to bringing your ideas to your audience so they can take action. And then their’s the delivery – getting your self ready is crucial too. I want to help you enjoy it!

How can I help?

Maybe you’ve got a really important talk coming up and you’re sweating it. Or your team needs to up their game to reach more customers with your great services. Or your family member is petrified about a speech they need to give.
I can work with you at one of my workshops, or create a bespoke event for your business. We can work 1:1 on a specific event you’re preparing for. Maybe you need some help to hone your marketing messages and plan.

Get in touch

I’d love to have a chat about what you need and see if I can help.
*Disclaimer: There’s a massive irony here. I can get so caught up in trying to work it all out and not get stuff wrong that communication in my personal life can be pretty crappy. So I’m working on that. And learning a lot from it too.

Three months in

Three months ago today, I started talking about a new thing.  It’s been great to talk about workshops, 1:1 coaching and why story matters. And to actually do something about it!

Reflecting on the first three months, here’s what’s been happening.

Personal and professional development

Last week, I held my first public workshop – previously, I’d run bespoke sessions for companies and teams. We worked on how stories work, how you can tell them, bringing the best “you” in the room and a little on the support you might need to make the impact you want.

Everyone had different things they took from the day, and the chance to help people develop was brilliant.

I asked people to rate the day too – and each one rated the content and workshop as 5-out-of-5.

Leigh said:

“By the end of the day we were all able to measure the improvements….. The environment is totally safe and supportive and the fear factor falls away. It’s more than worth the money.”


I’ve been working on presentation skills with Primary 7 children at a local school over the last six weeks. They’re a great bunch of learners who delivered some cracking presentations. It’s been great developing the content for a different age group – and I’ve learned a ton of stuff along the way.

One of the teachers noticed the difference in her pupils a few weeks after we’d finished working with her class – they were preparing and delivering class talks using the tools and techniques I’d worked on with them.

1:1 support

I’ve also had the privilege of helping a couple of people get ready for wedding speeches. These guys have worked hard to develop something that’s true to who they are, that will create a positive impact on their audience and will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Through all of this, I’ve been checking-in on why this is important to me. And it boils down to this:

Your story matters.

Seriously, I mean it.

What do I mean?

You might think you don’t have anything interesting, or important to say. There might think you have nothing of value to tell people. But there are ideas that sit behind the surface that are worth exploring. Your passion, enthusiasm and curiosity could be the thing that inspires.

I want to help you tell your story with clarity and confidence so your audience are compelled to take action. The might be some 1:1 coaching or a bespoke training programme for your team – or you might want to be part of my next public workshop.

Let me know if you’re interested in building your communication skills in the third week of January 2018:

I'm interested


Thanks for being part of the story-so-far.

A little kindness

I hope your day has started well. Got any Cyber-Monday bargains? I’ve not been looking to get anything. It’s time to give!

Get a place at workshop this week at a bargain price

Here’s a deal that will help your personal development, boost your confidence and save you money:

I’m offering the last two places at my Presentation workshop this Wednesday for just £57.

That’s over 70% off.

Book now
(use voucher code K1NDNESS)

Why am I doing this?
It’s because sometimes a little kindness makes the world a better place. And I believe when you tell your story, you can help do that too.

Face your fear of speaking in public by learning how storytelling works, how you can apply it and using my simple steps to build your confidence and inspire your audience.

Book today

Sport for all? It’s all about the people.

Love or hate it, sport is full of stories. Epic tales of overcoming adversity; the struggle to defy the odds; the winner-takes-all, last-moment victory. Excuse me if I got a bit gladiatorial.

Maybe you’re not into sport, or there’s stuff about professional sport that puts you off. I find it both fascinating and infuriating.

We forget that sports “stars” are people
We’re very quick to laud exceptional athletes with status, praise and money. Perhaps that then puts exceptions on them to be something better than us.

People have great stories
Have a read of this story about a guy who has made a surprise leap to the highest level of his chosen sport (Rugby).

Darryl Marfo in training with Edinburgh Rugby
Darryl Marfo in training with Edinburgh Rugby (source: scrum magazine)

The BBCs Tom English often writes a good narrative, but the real star of the piece is Darryl Marfo. The authenticity of his story – not hiding his moments of doubt, regret or reliance on others.

You see, people – characters, their history, challenges and destiny – are the key to compelling story. We like to know how it ends.

Call to action?
I’m left wanting to speak to the guy and hear more. Which is exactly what a good story should do. And then I think there’s hundreds of stories like this all around us every day. So maybe I just need to ask the person next to me what their story is.

For now, I suggest the article is worth a read to see both how Tom articulates it and how Darryl’s personality seems to come through. Good writing inspires action.

Marvellous Darryl Marfo’s moving climb to Scotland prominence (BBC Sport)

Let me know if I can help you write your next talk, or provide some coaching so you can deliver it.

Letting them know

A few months ago, I started on a wee journey (in case you hadn’t noticed); maybe I’d call it an experiment if I want to avoid the post-modern cliché.

What’s been happening? 

I’ve been talking more about helping people communicate their ideas in effective ways. About my desire to work with people help develop so they can create and deliver presentations that inspire and move people.

  • I will help people take their big ideas and bring them to life for others
  • I will help people use storytelling, humour and authenticity to get their ideas into their audiences heads so they take action
  • I will help people overcome that most-commons of fears; public speaking.

Remember why you’re doing it

Today I was reminded how much this stuff makes me come more alive. A friend was taking some pictures while I told people a few things about story and why it’s so brilliant for communicating ideas. He remarked that I came alive!

And so I’m reminded that we need to be alive to live. I realise again how much it means to me to see people given the tools to communicate great things well.

Tell people!

I’ve asked before for people’s help in spreading the word. And so I’m at it again. Only because I really believe the world needs people who can communicate well. I need to be better at this communication lark too, no doubt.

In less than a week I’ll be giving someone the chance to be at my next workshop for free. I’ve not run a competition before so if it’s your first time entering then that’s cool too!

Here’s the action:

Would you share this link with people you’re connected with? If you enter, you’ll get a unique url you can share. Each time you share it will boost the number of entries you get. Simple! 

You can be there too if you like – either book your own ticket or enter the competition.
Thanks for reading. And for sharing.