Kid Whispering…or is it hollering. The ‘art’ of public speaking.

Archibald Talk Frank Coles

Having fun on the arctic/desert talk. Not sure that jumper was a good idea. Shiny Frank.

Is there an art to public speaking? I’m not sure. All I know is Archibald High School in Newcastle Upon Tyne invite me back every year to do my arctic and desert talk with the kids. And it’s one of the highlights of my year. I love it. There’s nothing like making a bunch of 5-6 year olds really excitied.

When I told an ex-headmistress friend of mine that I would be doing these talks she warned me that I should not get them too excited too soon or too often. For the first 10 minutes at Archibald I kept it calm. Then I got them excited with stories and q and a. Then calmed them down; then got them worked up with the desert outfits; then calmed them down; then got them all a tizzy with the arctic kit… and so on. For a good hour or more.

I enjoy it so much and the kids inspire me so much that it may yet become my full time business. The photos of my last talk can be found on their webpage. And I hope to have some news later in the year when we trial our remote talks. Sahara anyone? [November this year]

If you’d like me to come and talk at your school, just get in touch. I hope to see you later this year Archibald.

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From little ideas to big ideas

If you’ve ever noticed that funny little © Riding High notice in my books and webTV content and wondered what the hell is that – A surf club? A pony trekking service? Male escorts? – well now’s the time to end the suspense: it’s the name of my company. Originally I established Riding High Ltd to run my writing work through when I returned to the UK in 2008. And now my baby has grown. From now on I’ll now be developing TV series and formats for network and international broadcasters along with book content for traditional and independent publishing. I’ll be doing this solo, with creative partners and for clients. It’s also the company I’ll run any science development work through (more on that in later posts for now it’s all a little hush-hush).

I’ve set up a new website to go with this new feel for the company (It’s needs a couple of design tweaks of course, don’t they all). We’re based in the north east of England and work locally, nationally and internationally with a track record across Europe, the Middle East and North America. You can find out more here: And if you have any media or deception ideas you’d like to discuss we’d love to hear from you.

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Brandon B’stard, my branded alter-ego – a new kind of workshop

How soon do you forget the things you learned in that oh-so-expensive workshop or seminar you just attended? Weeks or months perhaps? Maybe even days or hours?

And how much of the content did you forget? 10%, 20%, 90%, all of it?

Personally I don’t think it’s fair to the paying customer. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s cheating customers out of their hard earned cash and time. This is why for my last branding/re-branding workshop at the xxxx Institute I wanted to 1) teach them what a brand is quickly and easily, and 2) get them to remember it.

I explored all the usual methods, expensive print outs, follow-up consultations, videos, and then realized I was going about it all wrong. After all what is branding if not the ability to cut through the noise of all other media and thoughts out there with a definite purchase choice that is easily retained –  to the point where it’s a default, unconscious, go-to response.

It’s a combination of mnemonics and cognitive shortcuts that propagandists like myself like to use – but in a form I’d never used before: an alter-ego. Here’s how I introduced him.

“Hi, I’m Brandon B’stard. In six months time when you’re all talking about ‘that branding session’, you won’t remember Frank Coles, but you will remember that branding bastard, me. You’ll say:

‘What was his name again?’

‘Brandon B’stard, I think.’

“You’ll ask yourselves, ‘what did he actually teach us about branding?’. And you’ll remember:

‘Something to do with the name, right?’

‘Yeah, that’s right. It had to be short. To the point.’


‘It had to create an emotional reaction.’

Geddit? To the point, memorable and it must have an emotional connection. Just like Brandon. That’s the top-line essence of a brand. There’s a lot more to it than that of course, but if my students remember only that I’ll have done far more than most in helping them understand what the often intangible brand really is.

Not only that. Brandon is slightly cheesier, sleazier and brasher than me and if I go into his character in a session I can say the often unpalatable truths that organisations need to hear but in a way that allows them to like me Frank Coles and love/loathe Brandon.

Brandon makes Branding a hell of a lot of fun. It’s handy that he looks a little like me too.

You can view the top-line elements of the workshop in the Prezi at the top of the page. I used it for the first time for this workshop. It’s an online Powerpoint alternative, and it was really rather good.

It’s the straight-dope folks, as Brandon would probably say.

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Talking to kids – Archibald First School

Who's first?

It is wonderful to discuss your work with a truly receptive audience. And few more audiences are totally receptive than a room full of five year olds. For the second year in a row I was asked back to Archibald First School in Gosforth to talk to the kids about living and working in desert environments. We discussed polar bears, leopard seals, the differences between Inuit and Sami, how you go to the toilet, where Santa Claus lives and how to survive, even how to swim with sharks – all directed by the questions that the children prepared themselves.

Let's get the kit ready

After a vigorous and occasionally raucous Q&A I got the kids dressed up in the typical kit you might wear while skiing in the arctic, or when stationary and camped, and taught them how to wear an Arabic keffiyeh head dress just the like the Bedouin.

Then it was time for photos, more questions, and a cup of tea for yours truly. I love doing these talks. The kids genuinely inspire me to want to do more each year. I might have to see if I can get someone to donate a full sledge and ski set up for next year. I think a camel might be pushing it though.

You can see a full set of photos that the teachers took at the Archibald website and here’s a scan of one of the 20 or so letters of thanks I received from the kids. That’s the kind of job reference I like.

arthur letter

A job reference for grown ups

How big?

I’d recommend anyone who lives an adventurous life, travels, or who has an interesting job try and do this at least once. These talks really make a difference to young kids. I remember one at my own junior school where a former pupil who trained as an astronaut with NASA came in and blew us all away with his experiences. What it demonstrates to kids is that someone who grew up in a place like them can do wondrous things with their lives. And that can only be a good thing.

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Toastmasters survival guide to public speaking

Toastmasters InternationalI recently attended my first Toastmasters session in Newcastle, it’s a very informal and fun way to improve your public speaking skills. I even won an award in my first session for one of my table topics, which was nice. One of the Toastmasters was kind enough to give us an impromptu survival guide to public speaking which I found very useful for a workshop I ran the following week.

Toastmasters survival guide

  1. Know your room – does it have a projector? Does it have tables? Are there materials supplied or do you need to bring your own?
  2. Know your audience – who is your audience? Is the content you’re about to present it pitched at the right level? is it too highbrow or too lowbrow? What is the understanding of your audience?
  3. Know your speech – this is the equivalent of an actor learning his lines, it’s the basics and determines how your audience will perceive you for full.
  4. RELAX — Breathe…then find a friendly face in the audience, address that person, but not for too long, people get uncomfortable if they feel you are staring at them. So, pan the audience find another friendly face and repeat.
  5. Visualise giving your speech – in the days, weeks, or hours before your speech visualise each key element and how you will present it. Picture your audience and how they will respond to you positively. Picture yourself and how confident you are in your speaking abilities.
  6. What’s the message? The audience are your friends.
  7. Don’t get up and apologise — remember you are in charge. If you forget something don’t worry the audience won’t know.
  8. Concentrate on the message not the audience – emphasise your points.
  9. Turn your nerves into positive energy – focus it into your hands, your voice (the volume), and smiles.
  10. Take every opportunity to progress (that’s good advice for life to).

All of the above are wonderfully simple, easy to apply, and will enhance your speaking abilities and every level whether that’s to an audience of thousands for an audience of one.
To find out more about Toastmasters in Newcastle go to or for the international site and to find a group in your area.

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