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The Writing on the Wall

Stephen White
© Alexandros Michailidis |

Everyone can relate to that devastating feeling when the brilliant presentation you intended to make goes horribly wrong. The symptoms are easy to spot - the audience fails to engage, the negotiating counter-party refuses to buy into the rationale, the boss is obviously underwhelmed. So surely we should have sympathy with Mrs May.

Apparently, she was less than convincing when she pleaded her case for an extension to the Article 50 deadline at the last EU summit on March 22nd. Her performance was described as  ’90 minutes of nothing’, and EU leaders attributed her speech and the subsequent Q&A as a significant factor in her failure to achieve her goals without conditions. She has a reputation in this context. Disaster at the Tory Party conference 2017 when she got a coughing fit and the writing fell off the wall, and the speech itself was lacklustre.  Losing her voice in the House of Commons when she commended the Withdrawal Agreement at the second meaningful vote, followed by a second mammoth defeat.

We all know that good preparation and positive execution are key. But like Mrs May, we often fail to deliver. Why?  Here are five tips for Mrs May when she addresses the EU again today (Wednesday).

  1. Rehearse: Don’t rely on your gift of the gab, especially if you don’t have it! At the very least write and say out loud your opening statement, and make sure that it captures the essence of your message. Get colleagues in rehearsal to ask the questions which you might get asked in the real event, and fine-tune the answers.
  2. Believe in your message. You will not be convincing if you are not convinced yourself. Don’t try to sell what you don’t agree with. (Perhaps this sentence is a summary of the Brexit debacle).
  3. If your past performance looks shaky, focus on the future. Don’t enable the other side to fixate on previous problems and don’t keep repeating previously unconvincing arguments. Better to concentrate their minds on what you want to happen next
  4. Get a good night’s sleep before your meeting: we don’t project properly when we are weary or hungover. If you are unwell consider fielding a colleague instead of yourself.
  5. Most times, keep it short. The easiest way to go wrong is to go long.


For the sake of British wellbeing and British pride let’s hope she does better today than last time


Stephen White
More by Stephen White:
Learning from 4 Year-Olds
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