Metro, September 14, 2016
Graham Singleton of presentation specialists Make Yourself on how to influence people
So, what’s the big idea?
Make Yourself started about ten years ago. We do presentation skills, communication skills, negotiation skills… anything around influencing and persuasion. It’s not just about what you say, it’s about how you say it. Traditional training, in a classroom with workbooks — we never do that. We’re very interactive and experiential.
Where did the idea come from?
On the insight that there are so many useful things outside of business that people don’t use. I was a writer, for instance, so I was keen on using storytelling to persuade people.
My wife is an opera singer, and the way they master and use the voice is just brilliant. So I started using voice coaches. We can use these skills in what we do. So the first course we did was a blend of storytelling, acting skills and a lot around the voice – and that was something that really got us noticed at the time. Then, before we knew it, we were training all over the world, from ITN to M&C Saatchi.
What’s the best thing about it for you?
I used to have a great career in advertising but I started to not enjoy it. So going after what I absolutely loved was the best thing I ever did. Generally, there’s definitely a ‘wow’ factor for me when it’s a big deal for someone, when they’ve had 20 years of terrible nerves, and you do something in an afternoon that really changes that for them. When you see someone speaking, and you can spot where they’re struggling, you can take them out of the room and talk to them and really see a huge difference.
It’s from the TV series Mad Men, about a 1960s advertising agency. It’s the ‘carousel scene’, where Don Draper (Jon Hamm) pitches his idea to Kodak about changing the name of their new device they call ‘the wheel’, to what we know as ‘the carousel’. He knows people make decisions emotionally, then find rational arguments to back them up. He uses simple visuals, pictures of his family over the years, to tell stories and win over a sceptical audience.
How would you advise a newbie who wants to set up their own business?
You have to make your own luck. At the beginning, I was networking, doing people favours without expecting any in return and being quite bold about what I believed. You need to stick to your guns. Often, people will start something and when someone offers you a job, it’s easy to go back into your comfort zone. It’s having courage and accepting it might take a long time to get off the ground.
What’s your next big idea?
There are these nine styles of speaking and I’ve found that the best speakers can do five or six. So we’re looking at getting people to present the things they know about in all these different styles.
We’re also expanding into leadership skills. You have to work with change. I don’t know what’s coming in the next five years but I know it’s going to change, and you have to be completely open to that. Interview by JULIA FOX