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Organisations are set to be inundated with requests for personal information from UK consumers.

This is according to new findings from a study by Veritas Technologies. The multi-cloud data management company found that two in five (40%) are already planning to take advantage of their data privacy rights within six months of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Under the new GDPR, European Union residents will have greater control over their personal data.

Currently, EU residents already have the right to ask a company what personal data is held on them (e.g., gender, age, location, sexual preference, religious beliefs, passport/ driver’s licence information, etc.).

From May 25, 2018, they will also have enhanced rights to ask to have their data deleted – the ‘right to be forgotten’. Businesses will be required to sufficiently respond to these requests within one month of receiving the request.

The study, commissioned by Veritas and conducted by 3GEM, surveyed 3,000 adults, including 1,000 in the UK. It revealed that consumers are most likely to target the following industries with personal data requests:


  • Financial services companies, including banks and insurance companies (56%)
  • Social media companies (48%)
  • Retailers (46%)
  • Former, current or potential employers (24%)
  • Healthcare providers (21%)


“In light of recent events surrounding the use of personal data by social media and other companies, consumers are taking much more of an interest in how their data is used and stored by businesses across many industry sectors,” said Mike Palmer, executive vice president and chief product officer, Veritas.

“With a flood of personal data requests coming their way in the months ahead, businesses must retain the trust of consumers by demonstrating they have comprehensive data governance strategies in place to achieve regulatory compliance.”


The rise in data privacy requests

The forthcoming GDPR will impact any organisation that gathers, processes or stores the personal data of individuals in the EU. The research shows UK consumers welcome their enhanced privileges. Of those that intend to exercise their rights, two-thirds (65%) plan to request access to the personal data a company holds on them, while the majority (71%) intend to exercise their right to be forgotten under the new regulations.

The key drivers for exercising their data privacy rights are:


  • Increased control over personal data: over half (56%)of respondents don’t feel comfortable having personal data sit on systems that they have no control over.
  • A clearer understanding of what data companies hold on them: over half (56%) want to understand exactly what personal information companies hold on them.
  • Data breaches increase the likelihood of receiving requests for personal data: nearly half (47%) of respondents will exercise their rights to request personal data and/or have that data deleted, if a company that holds their personal information suffers a data breach.
  • Businesses are not trusted to protect personal data: over a third (37%) intend to exercise their data privacy rights because they do not trust companies to effectively protect their personal data.
  • Consumers want to put companies to the test: over a quarter (27%) want to test businesses to understand how much their consumer rights are valued before deciding whether to continue doing business with them.
  • Consumers want to get revenge:  As many as 8% will exercise their data privacy rights simply to irritate a company that they feel has mistreated them.


Meeting data privacy requests

Under the new GDPR, this influx of personal data requests will need to be answered by organisations within a one month time limit. But meeting this timeframe may be difficult as many organisations have limited visibility into what data they have and where it is located.

Most consumers do not expect organisations to be capable of fulfilling their requests under the new regulation. The majority (79%) believe that organisations won’t be able to find and/or delete all of the personal data that is held on them, and a fifth (20%) believe that businesses will only be able to deliver up to 50% of the personal data they hold.

“It’s imperative that businesses embrace technology that can help them respond to these requests quickly, with a high degree of accuracy. This means having the ability to see, protect and access all of the personal data they hold regardless of where it sits within their organisation. Businesses that fail to recognise the importance of responding effectively and efficiently to personal data requests will be putting their brand loyalty and reputation at stake,” added Palmer.



About Veritas Technologies

Veritas Technologies empowers businesses of all sizes to discover the truth in information—their most important digital asset. Using the Veritas platform, customers can accelerate their digital transformation and solve pressing IT and business challenges including multi-cloud data management, data protection, storage optimization, compliance readiness and workload portability—with no cloud vendor lock-in. Eighty-six percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter at @veritastechllc.



If you have a ‘hang-up’ about speaking in public I can empathise.

Up until recently, I blamed my dry mouth and other symptoms on my shyness. Certainly, all my school reports reinforced this assessment: ‘She should speak up in class’, ‘She would benefit from taking a more active part in group discussions’.

However, I now know that what I thought was ‘shyness’ for all those years was actually a predisposition to ‘introversion’.

Contrary to popular belief, shyness and introversion are not synonymous. Introversion refers to a particular way we energise ourselves. Whereas extroverts are energised by being around people, introverts can also enjoy the company of others, but this uses up their energy, so at some point they will need to take themselves away to recharge.


Introverted public speaking

A very experienced and accomplished public speaker taught me that authenticity is a key skill for all successful orators. So, rather than thinking of my introversion as an impediment, I started to actively look for ways to turn this trait into an asset.

Encouragingly, when I started practising public speaking in a safe and supportive environment, I discovered there were lots of ways to help channel my introverted behaviour and bolster my confidence. I have been developing my own ‘introverted public speaking’ toolkit ever since.

Here are six toolkit tips that I hope will be helpful to other introverts out there!


1. Preparation is Key

Take your time to prepare a structured and well-crafted speech, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Research your intended audience and make sure you structure the speech for their benefit rather than yours. This preparatory process is excellent for calming the nerves of an introvert, as it provides the infrastructure for a speech that acts like a virtual ‘comfort blanket’ for when you are both rehearsing and delivering your talk.

My first talk took eight weeks to construct, it now takes about four. Even though subject material can vary widely, I have identified certain themes and structures that work well for me, such as starting with an open question for the audience or including a call to action at the end of a speech.


2. Speak from the Heart

The world is full of great introverted public speakers, but their introversion is rarely noticed. Barack Obama is just one of many high-profile introverted orators who overcame public speaking anxiety by focusing on a central theme, cause or mission that had greater importance than his own nerves.

When you talk passionately about a subject, not only is the content easier to remember, but it helps you feel more confident too.


3. Practice Makes Perfect

Become familiar with the content, the pace and style of your speech, by practicing frequently. Include practice in front of a mirror, onto a mobile device and in front of a couple of carefully chosen friendly faces. This enables an introvert to convert their speech into a performance, allowing them to develop a suitable persona that gives them the necessary inner-confidence to step into the limelight.

I like to think of my public speaking persona as my more confident (and slightly extrovert) virtual twin – still recognisably me, but with a few less introverted characteristics. It wasn’t until I started recording my rehearsal speeches that I noticed crutch and filler words such as ‘err’ and ‘so’ and a rather subtle but annoying gentle smacking of the lips as I pondered my next points. I’m now working on reducing these.


4. Play ‘Let’s Pretend’

You can control the negative and catastrophising elements of your brain, by literally visualising helpful cues and positive images to create a more conducive environment in which to carry out your performance. This helps combat the natural tendency of introverts to want to escape from a position of vulnerability and exposure.

For one of my early talks, a more experienced public speaker shared a popular visualisation technique, to turn the heads of an audience into cabbages, but I found this too distracting. However, for me, I found turning them into friendly emojis made all the difference!


5. Keep Learning

Treat your public speaking engagements as ongoing learning opportunities. For me, public speaking is rather like trying to master a traditional craft that requires continual practicing, nurturing and refinement. This longer-term approach suits introverts well, as they have a tendency to be over-critical of themselves and can easily undermine their confidence at an early stage.

I have found it really useful to occasionally have a friend in the audience, tucked away from my direct line of sight, who can help me review my speech afterwards in a constructive way over a cup of coffee.


6. Remember to Re-energise

Both extroverts and introverts will experience a surge of adrenalin and be rewarded with dopamine when completing a successful speech. However, it is really important that, as an introvert, you recognise the drain this will have on your energy levels, so you must also build in quality time that allows you to re-energise afterwards, preferably away from others, so that you can recharge.

I re-energise with a good book curled up in a favourite armchair, but one of my introverted friends chooses to go on a long solitary walk, preferably in the countryside. A quiet hotel corridor works well too.

And, finally …

Recognise that introverts can give excellent speeches and presentations. By honing technique and taking every opportunity to practice introverts can do as well as their extrovert colleagues!


About the author

Kay HealdIntrovert Kay Heald is from Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit




Today’s workplace has evolved from people sitting in allocated desks to a much more fluid and flexible environment.

Many companies are now adopting an agile approach to how their workforce operates.

Through the evolution of technology and cloud adoption, professionals have the ability to work anytime anywhere.

This National Work From Home Day, we review how to ask for flexible working to improve your chance of having the ability to work anywhere at any time:


1. Propose a business case for yourself

When asking for flexible working make sure you build a case around the benefits it can provide your team and your work. This means explaining the advantage gained from allowing you to work remotely. For instance, talk about how flexibility at work could enhance your productivity.


2. Know what you want to achieve

In your request for flexible working, it is important to cover the specifics of your job. Outline the problem you are trying to solve and explain what you want to achieve. For instance, if you have a two-hour commute to work because you are travelling a long distance at rush hour, this can impact your productivity and overall energy levels. Outline the difference the benefits of flexible working will have on the overall success of your role and job satisfaction.


3. Build a good relationship with your employer

Often managers can be concerned that you may not be as focused on your work when you aren’t in the office and that your lack of visibility may be detrimental to the team. Having a strong working relationship with your manager and the rest of your team will help to alleviate any concerns.  When asking for flexible working, you have a higher chance of receiving a ‘yes’ if you are known to be a reliable, dependable worker who is productive and put in 100 per cent day after day.


4. Be honest

Being honest in the workplace is a good approach and it’s important to be open with your manager. If you do want to request to work remotely it’s important to demonstrate to your employer that you are still ambitious, enthusiastic and keen to do well in your current job, rather than seeking an escape from the realities of office life, so take the time to explain your reasons.


5. Be willing to negotiate

When asking for flexible working, make sure you are open to suggestions from your manager. One important factor to asking for flexible working is coming to an agreement with your employer, for example if you ask for flexible working two days a week be prepared to settle for one day a week to begin with.


6. Know your legal rights

If you feel uncomfortable about how to ask for flexible working or whether you will be able to, know that you have the right to ask. The law changed to allow all employees the right to request flexible working, rather than only parents and carers, as long as they have worked for the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks. Of course, employers are not obliged to accept these requests, but they must at least consider them in a reasonable manner. But the fact the law exists in the first place shows how the government considers flexible working worthwhile, and good for employees and businesses alike.

If you take the time to consider all the factors above and build a strong case for yourself then you will be in a better position on how to ask for flexible working and increase your chances of receiving a ‘yes’ from your employer.


About the author

Matt Weston is Managing Director at Robert Half UK. Robert Half is a specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 325 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, creative and administrative professionals. and

Everyone deserves to be happy at work.

That includes you.

If you need more persuading, note that companies also benefit from having happy employees, in terms of both morale and a better bottom line.

Stress at work is a common problem – whether in the form of a demanding client, office politics or intense deadline pressure – and you need to know how to deal with it.

In line with mental health awareness week, its the perfect time to tackle stress in the workplace.

Robert Half conducted a survey in collaboration with Happiness Works to find out the secrets of the happiest companies and employees.

Here are our seven top tips for dealing with stress at work:


1. Manage your morning

How you begin your day often sets the tone for the rest of it. So, don’t walk into work frazzled because you’re feeling rushed and frustrated from your morning commute. Sound impossible? Make one or more of these changes and take note of the positive impacts:

Wake up 15 minutes earlier — and leave the house 15 minutes earlier — if you’re perpetually stressed about beating the clock.

Take the time to eat breakfast at home or bring grab-and-go options that you eat on the way to work or when you arrive.

Don’t get slowed down or stressed out by your smartphone. If you must check personal email or social media before work, build in time to do so and limit yourself to a set time period. It may even help to set a timer.

Try to stay calm during your commute. If you’re driving, give yourself ample time, find some tunes or a podcast that boosts your spirits and don’t let traffic stress you out. If you take public transport, bring along something that relaxes you or gets you in a positive mindset for the day.


2. Take periodic breaks

Even if you work long hours, short breaks can offer big health benefits. If you find yourself tethered to your computer for hours at a time, even eating at your desk, try setting an alarm to force yourself to get up at regular intervals. Go on occasional head-clearing strolls, preferably outside. Stretch and do some light exercise. Refill your water bottle. Meet a colleague in the break room for a chat. And choose healthy snacks that will give you sustained energy. If you stay ramped up on caffeine and sugar, you’re bound to crash, which will only amplify your stress.


3. Don’t skip annual leave or check email on holiday

True breaks are needed to fully recharge and recalibrate your approach to the job. Having your feet in the sand but your fingers scrolling through your Outlook calendar is not “disconnecting.” And while you may feel like taking time off will just make your workplace stress even worse when you return, studies have shown that people are happier and more productive when they take time off. If you truly lack the resources to take an extended break, schedule a few long weekends throughout the year or even a mid-week day off here and there to relax and focus on yourself.


4. Never let conflicts fester

Given the amount of time you spend with your colleagues, you’re bound to bump heads from time to time. The problem comes in when the tension is never addressed effectively. Try to nip problems in the bud. Stewing leads to stress, and you risk damaging your own career if you lack the ability to be seen as a team player. Remember: The end goal of conflict management is to resolve the problem, not to win.


5. Set some boundaries

Don’t constantly bring work home. Let that be the exception not the rule. Strive to end your day when you leave the office. If you feel pressure from your employer to be available 24/7, be honest about how that impacts your stress levels. Let your manager know that work-life balance is important to you, not only to reduce stress at work, but also to increase your creativity and productivity. Be upfront about what needs to change if you’re on the road to burnout.


6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re working as hard as you can and still feel buried in projects, don’t suffer in silence. Your manager can’t help you if he or she is not aware of the problem. Before you set up a meeting, think of a few solutions you can suggest that would ease your pressure, such as offloading some of the work to a temporary or interim professional or adjusting deadlines. And it never hurts to try some different time management tactics or experiment with new ways to prioritize projects.



7. Enter your week with a positive attitude

Get the most out of your entire weekend so you can enter the workweek recharged and refocused. Before you leave work on Friday, straighten up your workspace, tend to any unanswered emails that threaten to nag you throughout the weekend and make a to-do list for Monday morning. Schedule time for activities and relaxation each day of the weekend. And don’t succumb to the Sunday night blues. If you find your stress levels rising Sunday afternoon, make fun plans for that evening to take your mind off your job. Otherwise, you risk not only jeopardising your personal time, but also waking up on Monday in a state of stress.

Stress at work is a career-long battle for many people, and it will inevitably ebb and flow throughout your life. For the sake of your health and happiness, it’s worth making the time and effort to keep it at bay.



About the author

Rachel Stockell is Senior Manager of OfficeTeam, Robert Half UK




Mental health is a subject which many employees still struggle to talk about in the workplace.


But it’s not an issue that can be swept aside and ignored.

Especially when you consider the figures found in an NHS report, which reveal that one in three sick notes handed out by GPs are due to mental health related problems.

Mental health is also considered a greater concern than physical illnesses for many UK companies, according to a recent Bupa study.

There has, however, been plenty of work done to raise awareness of this issue in the last few years, highlighting ways mental health can be tackled within the workplace. The Stevenson and Farmer Review, published last year, highlighted how Government and employers alike could better support employees struggling with mental health.

More recently, this conversation has attracted royal attention, with Prince William supporting the launch of a new workplace mental health initiative that provides online training tools, aimed at facilitating positive discussions between employers and employees.

With Mental Health Awareness week taking place between May 14-20, it seems like the perfect time for employers to review how they are managing mental health issues.


What steps can be taken?

If employees are unwilling to talk about mental health, it can be tough to identify when they are encountering difficulties and, therefore, offer the necessary support. Employers can pre-empt this by taking positive actions, however. They can demonstrate an understanding that some people may experience problems in the workplace and show they are prepared to offer support where possible. These steps might include:


1. Providing training

Some companies have been offering employee training programmes to increase knowledge about mental health amongst everyone in the workplace. WH Smith are one example of an organisation implementing a wellbeing strategy tackling this issue. They collaborated with Mental Health First Aid England to train their line managers as mental health first aiders.

With a programme such as this, employees can learn all about mental health and its effects. This will better equip employees to broach the subject with their colleagues. Those struggling with their mental health may also find it easier to talk to supportive staff members.


2. Spotting warning signs

Persistent absence or lateness may indicate an employee is struggling with the demands of work. It might be stress-related, induced by a heavy workload, or because problems at home are affecting performance.

Keeping a closer eye on attendance can be a first step to helping an employee. This data can flag up unusual trends and alert employers to problems that may otherwise be missed. Investing in technologies that can streamline analysis and provide automated early warning can help data work even harder. By being proactive and acting on this information, employers can give their staff an opportunity to talk about what problems they might be encountering. This would put the organisation in a better position to provide support if necessary.


3. Looking after wellbeing

If an employee is found to be struggling with their mental health, organisations could explore how their life can be made easier by reviewing existing working conditions. An employer could assess whether it would be possible to improve an employee’s work-life balance.

Would it be possible to adjust working hours or management structures to support the staff member, allowing them to make a meaningful contribution at work without jeopardising their wellbeing? Could flexible working options help reduce strain and allow the employee to gain access to external support when needed?

Proactively putting processes such as these in place will help employers to manage any potential issues when they occur. Hopefully, this will also reduce any stigma still surrounding mental health and encourage those who are facing difficulties to come forward and receive support.


About the author

Lisa Baggaley is HR Director at NGA Human Resources


Forty percent of working Brits routinely wake up in the middle of the night to check emails, according to a new study.

New research looking into the stresses and strains of modern working life has found a third (34%) regularly tackle work issues in the dead of the night, rather than leaving it until the morning.

In fact, 44% of those polled by British Summer Fruits, claim they frequently send emails to colleagues and clients between the hours of 11pm and 6am, while one in ten say they would fear for their job if they didn’t respond to emails promptly.

As many as 16% said they often end up burning the midnight oil due to pressures from colleagues and the boss, while 11% describe their life as ‘all work and no play’.

Even at the weekend, the average Brit spends around three hours catching up on emails and dealing with issues they simply haven’t had time to address during the week, while 64% of workers admit they lose sleep over work worries.

Additionally, 33% said their dinner is often interrupted with work demands, while one in twenty have put a stop to intimacy with their partner due to disruptive work queries.

A further 45% complained that their boss often called them during non-working hours and 28% have been disturbed on a family holiday.

Over half (53%) of the 1,000 British employees polled said they rely on strong coffee to keep them focussed during the long working week. However, 61% say their reliance on high caffeine drinks makes it harder to switch off when they get home.

A lethargic 14% resort to energy drinks to stay alert in the office and 27 admit to eating sweets all day to perk them up. A third (33% ) of those polled said they had been made to feel bad by the powers that be for not taking calls or answering emails out of hours.

64% of workers admit they lose sleep over work worries Click To Tweet.


Counting sheep

Dr Emma Derbyshire, Nutritionist for British Summer Fruits said: “This research paints a bleak picture for British workers.

“While the advancement of technology has helped us in our professional careers, it also means we are contactable 24 /7 and for many it makes the ability to switch off very hard.

“We spend such a huge proportion of our lives at work anyway, it’s depressing to hear that so many professionals are having to work until the early hours of the morning in order to catch-up on their heavy work-load.

“Relying on caffeinated drinks and sugary foods to keep us going is compounding the issue, making it harder for us all to switch off. With new research shedding light that berries can keep you going for up to six hours with no adverse side effects, we think they offer a great-tasting alternative to caffeine and sugar.”

Relaxing baths, friend’s weddings and even funerals were also events that workers had had ruined because of work dramas, while 37% of us have ended up logging on when abroad and working during our annual break.

And 37% of employed Brits say their phone is like a technological umbilical cord to their office and work, while more than four in ten (41%) confessed they are often at their wits end with constant grief from work.

Source: ResponseSource



It won’t surprise you to know that we’re more distracted than ever.


And here’s the real punchline…

We’ve stacked the deck against ourselves.


At first, our brains evolved to seek new stimuli. This helped us stay alive as we found fruit, water, attractive mates, and better trees to live under. Each discovery jolting our brain with dopamine, so we kept seeking out more, thus we survived. Neuroscientists call this bottom-up attention and it’s the first system of attention in our brains.

But we’re not just discovering fruit anymore, are we? Our technology has also evolved, to the point where new stimuli surround us every second. Our phone will never run out of shiny things to look at – not to mention our other devices. And looking at shiny things is one of the primary functions of our brain.

Our brains desire distraction and our technology provides it.

The Great War between humans and robots isn’t coming, it’s here now, and we’re losing. Click To Tweet


A stacked deck in the workplace

This is a bad situation when you’re trying to get something accomplished. Especially when you need an entire team of other people to help you accomplish it, and each of those people is just as distracted as you are. After all, Facebook’s busiest hours are 1-3pm, Monday-Friday.

Let’s put some numbers on it: Since 2007 (the year Apple released the iPhone), interruptions have increased to make us waste up to six hours a day. One estimate calculates these interruptions as costing 28 billion hours (with a ‘b’!), resulting in nearly $1 trillion in lost productivity. Even without distractions, a different study found that the mental sluggishness due to multitasking costs the economy $450 billion annually. All of that, just in the US.

The Great War between humans and robots isn’t coming, it’s here now, and we’re losing.

But we can still win.

We have two interdependent weapons.

Our first weapon is what neuroscientists call our top-down system of attention, devoted to planning. This system is what allowed us, after discovering new fruit, to restrain ourselves from eating all of it – and instead save some for planting. It’s a system that sacrifices current stimuli for future benefit.

Which is great, but how many times have you clenched your fist and declared, “Starting now I will lose weight and gain muscle!”, only to find yourself eating red velvet cake before dinner that night? If you’re anything like me, it’s pretty often.

The top-down system isn’t enough by itself, it also needs: community. Doing things together invests everyone in the outcome. If you agree to meet your friend at the gym every day at 7am – and you put some kind of penalty in place for not going, like $5 – your will to succeed increases immensely.


Attention at the team level

Liberating your workplace from distractions and generating focus starts with a conversation with your team. Here are the six areas where I’ve found the most productive starting questions:



For example, how and when do you allow yourself to be reached? Is everyone available at all times? Is there a system for sequestering in an unreachable “vault” to accomplish work that requires active focus? Is e-mail the one place for everything?



Does your technology promote focus instead of interruption? Does it add value to make all information available to everyone, does that add clutter? Would productivity software be helpful, or would its learning curve sap the resources it’s meant to preserve?


Office Design

Does every sphere of attention have its own space? How can you best signal to others not to interrupt with walk-bys and “quick questions” in times of active focus? To what extent does your team feel compelled to respond to external demands on their attention?



What are your plans, and how can you empower others to pursue them? Do your people know why they’re on your team, and can they articulate it? What are your company’s overall priorities, in order? How can you emphasize the difference between delegation and empowerment?


People Development

What are your expectations of your team, and how do you communicate those expectations? How can you make work-life balance a priority for your team and yourself? Do spouses expect to reach you and your team at work? Do bosses in your organization expect to reach your team at home?



How are you trying to change yourself? How do you motivate when studies show 87% of employees aren’t engaged? If a paycheck can’t make them care, how can you appeal to their emotions in other ways? And what about yourself needs to change before you can lead the needed change in your organization?


These are just starting points. It’s also helpful to define incentives, both positive and negative, and to establish a system of reminders so your collective decisions don’t fall by the wayside.

Our nature and technology don’t have to win. But we can only overcome them if we’re together.


About the author

Curt SteinhorstCurt Steinhorst is the bestselling author of Can I Have Your Attention? Inspiring Better Work Habits, Focusing Your Team, and Getting Stuff Done in the Constantly Connected Workplace. He is on a mission to rescue us from our distracted selves. After years studying the impact of tech on human behavior, Curt founded Focuswise, a consultancy that equips organizations to overcome the distinct challenges of the constantly-connected workplace.

Diagnosed with ADD as a child, Curt knows intimately the challenges companies face to keep the attention of today’s distracted workforce and customer. He has coached executives, TV personalities, and well-known professional athletes on how to effectively communicate and create focus when they speak to audiences, lead their employees, and engage their customers.

Curt’s unique insight and entertaining speaking style has captured the attention of audiences worldwide. He speaks more than seventy-five times a year to organizations that include everyone from global leadership associations and nonprofits to Fortune 100 companies.


You won’t persuade anyone to your point of view or proposed course of action unless you grab their attention and keep it with you.


If you want to persuade then blending into the background is not an option. As a speaker you should be looking for contrast – to stand out from other speeches and presentations and block out the other demands competing for your listener’s attention.


Here are five opportunities for contrast when giving a persuasive speech or presentation:


1. Contrast in the opening of your speech

A polite, but innocuous platitude, such as “Hello, thank you for inviting me …” wastes those precious opening seconds when you need to make an impact and connect with your audience (the first step in persuasion).

A pause. A smile. Both are hard to pull off when you’re nervous, but dramatic in their impact. Everyone warms to a genuine smile. And a pause draws attention from whatever people are thinking about to focus on you and wonder what you will be sharing with them.

To keep their attention, open with a startling statistic, a personal anecdote (we all love a story), or a relevant quote from someone significant to your audience e.g. an industry expert.


2. Contrast in content

In most business communication, the goal is to persuade your audience to adopt your call to action. This might be to buy your sales pitch, affirm your recommendations, recommend you to others, etc. Effective persuasion requires contrast in content.

Evidence-based information, e.g. statistics, track record or citation of a reinforcing expert quote drive credibility, authority and recognition of your expertise. However, these alone are not enough to persuade. You need to contrast this ‘rational’ and ‘functional’ information with more emotive content that helps to build trust and relationships; connections with your listeners. Here, storytelling and anecdotes come into their own. They are your chance to demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm for the case in hand.

Juxtaposed, these two types of information can bring even greater potency to your message.


3. Contrast of language and words

Rich and colourful vocabulary stands out. They work well in a speech or presentation in a way they might not in an everyday conversation. We need to avoid words that are obscure. However, when we use rich language, it stands out as different and erudite, enhancing our credibility and authority. For instance, instead of ‘say’, try mutter, mumble, shout, whisper, etc. They all communicate much more than just ‘saying’.

Over and above words, we have rhetorical devices to contrast from everyday speech, for instance:

  • Alliteration, e.g. colourful contrasts communicate, startling statistic
  • Metaphor, an expression that describes a person or object by referring to something regarded as having similar characteristics, e.g. the city is a jungle, broken heart, bubbly personality
  • The rule of three pervades formal speeches, fairy stories, film titles, comedy. Examples proliferate and you probably have your own favourites. One example I like is from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

“The rule is: jam tomorrow, and jam yesterday, but never jam today”

Rhetorical devices like these give emphasis and colour, creating engaging and contrasting content.


4. Contrast of voice and body

I’m sure you’ve experienced the misery of the monotone. It’s hard to stay focused on a voice that drones on relentlessly, without any kind of variety of pitch, pace, volume, etc. A voice that goes faster and slower, louder and quieter, harsher and softer, higher and lower is interesting. That colour and contrast brings meaning and interest to our words and makes a greater impact. For instance, if you say “the words tripped lightly off the tongue …”, you will render them more memorable if you use a short, staccato, light enunciation, using a faster pace that, combined, suggest the movement of the words themselves.

While you are talking, think about how you can use contrasting body language and gestures to give emphasis to your words. If your hands and arms are constantly flailing around, you deny yourself the opportunity to use gestures. For example: to indicate height, position your hand to the relevant height, to indicate inclusion, use an all-encompassing sweep across your audience or wide arms coming together in a large, encircling gesture


5. Contrasting stage positions

It is, without doubt, important to take a solid stance on stage because it conveys confidence. A speaker shuffling about makes us feel uncomfortable and nervous and much less likely to be persuaded. That’s not to say that you have to stay fixed in that position. Different parts of the stage can represent different locations, different points in time. For instance, audience left for the past and audience right for the future. When you change position, the audience travels with you to that time, place, etc. The point is that these contrasting positions should always be taken with purpose, to reinforce your message.

Contrast provides subtlety, light and shade. It gives interest and the difference that makes your presentation stand out and helps your audience better remember your message. To hold attention and persuade make use of contrast.


About the author

Lyn RoseamanLyn Roseaman is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.



The key question in this unpredictable era:


What is your sense of purpose that will enable you to flourish in changing times?


What is your purpose? This is probably the single most important question you can ask and your answer will shape your future.

However, it’s not straightforward. We are led to believe that our purpose is connected with how much we achieve, the accumulation of possessions, or attaining status in society.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your personal purpose is your internal compass. It is your big why. It is the meeting point between your passion and your talent. When you are on purpose you are in flow. When you are on purpose you unlock the necessary skillset to thrive in today’s complex and unpredictable world. Ultimately your personal purpose is an aspirational reason for being. A deep conviction about what is most important. It shapes your mindset, behavior and actions. It has a timeless quality, which is beyond circumstance. It provides the meaning and direction of your life.


Discovering your purpose

One day I got a call from the Head of Talent of a major law firm. Jane knew me well and that I specialized in coaching leaders to discover their purpose. She said that one of her most talented lawyers was questioning his future in law and was looking for some support. I met Stephen in central London and we found a quiet corner in a secluded hotel. He was extremely bright, quick thinking and personable. Stephen came straight to the point. He had been practising law his entire career, specializing in doing due diligence on major deals. But now, approaching his mid-forties, Stephen was reflecting on his future options. Should he stay in law, move into doing deals, enter the corporate world as General Counsel, take a risk and set up his own practice, or retrain in education and teach? I sensed quite a lot of confusion in Stephen and suggested to explore his purpose before looking at any external factors. I shared with him a definition of purpose and the steps he needed to take.

The starting point was to ask Stephen to think of the key activities in his life, and those which displayed him at his best. When he was most fulfilled and why? When he was in flow and why? When he was experiencing ‘peak’ moments and why? He recounted times like playing sports, academic achievements, pulling off deals, marriage and family.

The next step was to identify the key themes emerging from his key experiences in order to understand their linkages. Stephen highlighted relationship, achievement and creativity as the standout ideas. We then entered a dialogue to go deeper into the meaning of these and the ultimate end-game he wanted to reach. He landed on ‘Being the best I can be’ as his purpose.

We then road tested his purpose against found key factors:

  • Consistent – he could apply his purpose to all areas of his work, life and relationships.
  • Energizing – he was fuelled by the idea of it and it ignited passion.
  • Fulfilling – he knew that by being on purpose he would thrive.
  • Significant – he recognized that his purpose linked him to what matters most.


Living your purpose

Stephen went back out into his life to put his purpose into action. Eventually it led him to transition from law into setting up an impact investment services firm, which he describes as a ‘profit with purpose’ business.

The vital element to the discovery of purpose is to be open-minded, curious and committed to knowing what is true for you. Living your purpose starts by setting a deliberate intention to be purpose-led in your work, life and relationships. It then requires you to demonstrate a skillset which will inspire and engage those you interact with through your ability to listen, connect and bring the best out of others.

At the end of the day life is too short to simply have a job. What if there was something that could become your guiding light, no matter how rough the elements get or how you fly? What if you could be grounded in a state of being that would help you navigate any challenge, and enable you to keep perspective when everything is going your way? What if you had a clear framework for making big decisions and managing the big priorities in your work and life?


Finding meaning

Having a purpose is the gateway for having an inspired and meaningful life no matter what.

By discovering and following your purpose you will be on track, regardless of the obstacles you hit along the way. In fact, your purpose will give you the capacity to embrace roadblocks with a growth mindset and greater resilience. Your purpose will transform your work into a source of giving and service that will fully engage you. Your purpose will nurture your relationships so that you create new levels of communication, connection and shared reality. Your purpose will inspire you to be the best you can be and thereby inspire others along the way. To lead with purpose is simply the greatest gift life has to offer. It lies in your hands to accept the gift and use it well.


About the author

Ben RenshawBen Renshaw is a speaker, coach and author of eight books, including Purpose, out 24 May.

He has worked with leading organizations, senior executives and entrepreneurs including Allen & Overy, Boots, BT, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Heathrow, Heinz, Henley Partnership, IHG®, M&S, Nationwide, NATS, NHS, P&G, Rolls Royce, Sainsbury’s Argos, SSE, Sky, UBS, Unilever, Virgin Media and Zurich.

To hear more from Ben, listen to his podcast – LID Radio episode 83: What’s your purpose?


As it turns out, sitting at a desk all day is, well, not that good for us.

Research shows that a lack of physical activity during the working day — known as a “sedentary lifestyle” — is bad news for your health in more ways than one.

Sitting for too long doesn’t just affect your waistline: it also affects your mood, your memory, and even your sleep.

The problem is that this sedentary lifestyle is only getting more common as office workers pull longer hours to catch up with the demands of a world accelerated by technology.

Even finishing the day with a gym session might not be enough to counteract the detrimental effects of sitting down for 9.5 hours a day, which include:

  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Loss of muscle and bone strength


Nick Pollitt has put together a few tips to help inject more exercise into your every day:


1. Neck strengthening

If you’re holding your neck still for long periods of time, chances are it’ll start feeling pretty stiff. To help strengthen your neck, place your palms on your forehead and gently push your head forward, pushing back with your hands. Do this for a few seconds, stop, and repeat. Sure, it looks a little strange, but it feels really good.


2. Head rolling

Loosen up your neck and increase blood flow to that big old brain of yours with a head roll. Tuck your chin into your chest, then slowly rotate your head around your shoulders until you’re back to the starting point. Then, go back the other way. If you put headphones on, it’ll just look like you’re really into the music.


3. Shrug your shoulders

Don’t know the answer to something you’ve been asked? Take the opportunity for a few shoulders shrugs. Lift your shoulders to your ears and hold for a few seconds before dropping to help strengthen the muscles in your back which improves posture, reducing back pain. Don’t do this too often, though; otherwise, people may think you really don’t have an opinion.


4. Make your shoulder blades touch

If you sit at your desk with your arms out in front of you, it’s likely that the sensation of your shoulder blades touching is pretty alien. Nevertheless, it’s important to do this to help open up your chest and relax the muscles across your upper back. If you yawn while you do it, no one will bat an eyelid.


5. Press your hands together

Work on those pectorals and triceps with this easy exercise. Press your palms together in front of your chest and press them against one another. Hold for a few seconds. You should feel some tension in your arms, shoulders and chest.


6. Pull your hands apart

Starting in the same position as in exercise number 5, turn one hand the other way around so one thumb points to the ceiling and one to the floor. Hook your hands together by your fingers and pull for a few seconds. This helps strengthen your biceps without having to get the dumbbells out.


7. Tense your abs

It probably won’t give you a washboard stomach, but tensing your abs every now and again can help improve your core strength. That means your posture is better supported: goodbye, back pain! You can take this up a gear by gripping the edge of your desk and swivelling in your chair left and right with your feet off the ground.


8. Pinch your glutes

You might be sat on them all day, but that doesn’t mean that your buttocks are getting all the exercise they need. Tense and hold your glutes for 5-10 seconds, release, and repeat. You can sync it up to whatever music you’re listening to at the time to keep up a steady rhythm.


9. Compress those thighs

Without regular pressure put on them, your thighs can quickly weaken. Give them a quick booster by pushing your knees together. Hold them for a few seconds and release. If you have slim thighs, put a book between your legs and press against that instead. You should feel the benefit in your groin and around your hips.


10. Raise your legs

One of the great things about a desk is that you can give your legs some exercise without anyone noticing. Put your feet together and slowly raise your legs until they’re at a 90-degree angle to your body. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower them again. Do this a few times until you can feel the burn in your calves.


Doing a little exercise at your desk a few times a day is an easy way to look after your body while you’re at work. Remember to pair it with regular, more active exercise after work to keep your heart healthy, your blood flowing, and your brain supplied with the oxygen it needs to do a fantastic job.


About the author

Nick Pollitt is Managing Director at office furniture suppliers DBI Furniture Solutions.