Category Archives: Communication

New tricks

I came to Australia three months ago with a desire to learn new things. That wasn’t just about my course, but I wanted to develop new skills in other areas if I could. I wanted to see if 20 years in the public sector had made me unfit to work elsewhere, or whether the skills I developed there would have a broader utility. I got answers to both those questions this week, in quite different ways.

Firstly, I have taken a step towards my (pipe?) dream of working for myself, by being taken on as a media and communication consultant by a small business in Melbourne. The ‘i’s aren’t all dotted and the ‘t’s aren’t all crossed yet, so that’s as much as I”ll say for the moment, but it is incredibly exciting.

Secondly, I took part this past weekend in a Startup event – a weekend in which teams get together and develop a business idea with some sort of prototype and then pitch it to a panel of judges, all with expertise in tech, business and startups. For the first time in Australia, this Startup Weekend was completely targeted on women. Most hackathons or startup weekends are lucky if they get 10% women attending, but this one showed that there are motivated and most of all talented women out there, and they are keen to get involved.

Participants signed up as either Hackers (developers/programmers), Hipsters (designers) or Hustlers (everything else). No prizes for guessing which I was… I was with a team called First Curled Problems, which is a customised site for people with curly hair. You may laugh, but it’s a big market, and one that suffers at the hands of, for instance, shampoo manufacturers and ill-trained hairdressers. I worked on research, both background and market (which meant talking to curly-haired women and counting hair types on a trendy Melbourne shopping street). I knew I was going to learn lots, meet useful new people and, given the subject of the project, probably have better looking hair at the end of it. Well I have all of that, plus, and I’m still stunned about this, we won!

You’re the type of crackerjack team that can take a crazy idea like this and actually make it work

(comment from one of the judges)

It’s not just a prestige win, either. We get co-working space and mentoring/advice to develop our idea. Check back in a few months, especially if you’re curly, and we may have something to show you!

If you want to see more about the weekend, there was loads of tweeting going on and all of the projects were really interesting.

How communicating on EU issues looks from my little corner of the world

I was in Brussels on 16 and 17 October as I had been asked to talk at a workshop on the reputation of the EU institutions at the annual EuroPCom conference, organised by the Committee of the Region. For once I didn’t do a presentation full of zooming and pictures, but just talked. Maybe I’ve been doing too many events with academics… Anyway, if you’re interested, here are my speaking notes.

The panel also had Simona Guerra of Leicester University, who researches Euroscepticism, Melanie McCluskey, a reputation expert, Sixtine Bougues of the European Commission’s DG for Communication and Sjerp Van der Vaart of the European Parliament’s Information Office in Belgium (latter two have not yet submitted their presentations/speaking notes for distribution.) The whole thing was expertly chaired by Rob Heirbaut of the Flemish broadcaster VRT.

In terms of the other workshops, I very much enjoyed watching Andy Williamson talk about online communication. All the videos and presentations that the organisers have collated so far are available on their website.

[Update, 25 November 2013]: The full proceedings are now available as a download: EuroPCom_Proceedings

Get your blog on

For the third year out of four, I will be running the European Day of Multilingual Blogging. A rather grand title for what is really just me encouraging people to write their blog in a different language to usual, to highlight the value of multilingual communication. You can sign up here. It was originally started to show that although English is the dominant language of the Euro-blogosphere, many are blogging in a second or even third language, and also that the English-language bloggers aren’t totally deficient in language skills themselves. If you’d like to take part, but don’t want to blog yourself, feel free to invite a friend or colleague to guest post on your blog. As last year, I’ll start posting a list of who is coming once we get past thirty sign-ups.

Please spread the word!

Getting to grips with visual communication

I took part in a fantastic training course on Friday, which I think could change the way I communicate in terms of the many presentations and workshops I am asked to do. I’ve always had a visual approach to communication, preferring to find an image to illustrate a point, rather than resorting to the sort of PowerPoints that are useless, because you can’t read them, and at the same time render you useless because they give your audience all the information. But quite often I am frustrated because I have a clear idea of the image I want, but can’t find it. So when I saw CreativityWorks offered a course on Cartooning for Communicators, and that it was in Brighton on 19 April when I had already arranged to be there the following day, it seemed to have my name all over it. So I booked it, and went along.

It was an absolutely fantastic course. Yes, it was drawing and we spent some time rediscovering our inate ability to draw. But in the afternoon it was more about the value of visual information. The act of trying to find a visual representation of an idea makes you think more simply about what it is you are trying to say. And it also engages your audience in a different way.

So when I’m talking about communicating clearly I can use something like this:

Avoid jargon









And rather than saying ‘think about your audience and the language they use’, I can show this:









It means I can react to events in a different way:

Government wants harder-working toddlers










I’ve got a long way to go, I know, but it feels transformational in terms of how I think about communicating. Even if I don’t use an image, the search for one will help me think about what exactly it is I am trying to say, and that can only be a good thing.




At the end of the course we were asked to do a cartoon to show what we had learnt. Don’t take this literally!









They have another course in Manchester in June and I would recommend it if you are in the sort of job where you regularly have to get up in front of people. You won’t regret it!




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