Storytelling, companionship, holy places...
It's all happening in this year's virtual, online pilgrimage from North London (where I live) to Canterbury.
It takes place entirely on Google Streetview, with Zoom, so you can join from anywhere.
2.30pm to 3.15pm, every weekday in April 2021.
As the first week ends, we're in London.
Jenny Rogers stumbled into it, years ago. She didn't even know it had a name - not till she found a handful of others were doing it too. It's not therapy. It's not being a priest. But it's got something in common with them both. It's coaching.
I discovered coaching after many years as a journalist, and saw many similarities. I found it helpful myself to have a coach, and I trained to coach others. But when I hit a bad time, the coaching became too much, and I gave it up.
Jenny is one of the greatest exponents of coaching in the UK, with a remarkable list of clients, and a number of books on the subject - and an exciting new one out soon.
In this conversation, Jenny shares insights on what coaching is, what it isn't, and what it can achieve.
Find out more about Jenny here: https://jennyrogerscoaching.com/
This episode covers so much, in one interview. Dr Nic Hooper talks to me about what it's like to prepare to publish his first book; about mental health (good and bad, his own, mine, other people's); about how illustrations can complement words, without being cheap; about the physiological effect of watching Tom Cruise hanging off a skyscraper with one glove; what Nic will remember when he's dying; whether to keep video recordings to put on a website he doesn't even have (yet), and why I needed to trim this interview.
Finally, I'd like to draw your attention to the wonderful bit of cello that ends the show, a gift from my gifted friend Julia van Beuningen; and to add (in light of the previous episode) that there's a rhetorical term for what I just did, using both gift and gifted in a single sentence.
Nic's (new!) website is here: https://www.nichooper.co.uk
Every great writer learns by copying the great writers of the past. For centuries, this involved collecting verbal wonders in a “commonplace book“. In this episode I share something I’ve written for The Idler about my own commonplace book.
Rebecca Twomey is good with words. As a journalist, she knows a lot about dating, having written about it for several years. As an interviewer, she’s used to being recorded. But until recently she had never given a wedding speech – and felt all the pressure that comes with it.
In this interview, recorded as research when I was writing A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech, Rebecca remembers in detail how she approached it, what worked (and what didn’t), and explains how she came to be giving what was, in effect, the “father of the bride” speech.
Also in this episode, you can hear the voice of Lorna Milburn, a photographer who - as well as shooting for newspapers and magazines - has covered a lot of weddings. I asked Lorna to tell me what she has noticed, particularly, about wedding speeches.
You can find Rebecca and Lorna on my website, here:
Steve Chapman was working with somebody a bit wooden, who wanted to be more natural. But how? You can't just say, "Be more natural". What Steve did was utterly unexpected (it involved dandelions).
The interview with Steve in this episode was recorded as part of the research for my book, back in the days when you could meet a friend and sit in the park together, beneath noisy planes and near laughing children, without wearing a mask.
As you listen to Steve, please notice that his interaction with his client involved a lovely dance between gentle requests and firm demands - a combination that may possibly be necessary in any attempt to engineer an interaction.
If you're talking about something delicate, it's important to set up expectations from the start.
This episode contains the beginning of a workshop I delivered to an audience of speakers and would-be speakers, courtesy of a charity, Illuminate, which helps people to overcome their mental health problems, then talk publicly about their experiences.
In other words, what you're going to hear is me giving a talk about giving a talk. So apologies in advance that it's a bit self-referential. Some members of the audience had already delivered talks of their own, others hadn't. In this recording we considered how to set up a kind of "working relationship" with each audience, from the start.
The session as a whole lasted just under an hour, but I'm sharing only the beginning, to keep this episode relatively short.
Thank you to participants, and to Cambridgeshire-based Illuminate for organising this session.
Ron Boyd-MacMillan wrote a remarkably useful and entertaining book, Explosive Preaching, which I picked up while researching my own book. His insights, intended to aid religious preachers, are useful to anybody who intends to make a speech, whether at a wedding or for work.
In this interview, Ron tells me why the great early preacher St Augustine used to improvise; says he's been disappointed that churches, in Covid, have sounded like bureaucrats interested only in health and safety; and tells stories about his work training preachers across the world and in many denominations. In particular, he explains how he prepared Chinese "house church" preachers to memorise dozens of hours of sermons all at once.
Whatever your interest in communication, you'll learn from Ron how to think about your purpose, your audience, the arrangement of your material, the style you adopt, how to memorise your material, and how best to deliver it.
PLUS: Whatever kind of creative work you are doing, you will want to stop occasionally and assess it. That applies to public speaking, writing a book, and making a podcast. In this episode, I perform a quick assessment of my own progress with this podcast, and note that I would never have started if I had hoped to know all this at the beginning - a reminder to all creative types to get started.
I had hoped to record the audiobook myself. But Covid stopped that. After a few hours feeling sorry for myself, I came to see how much better it is that the book was narrated by Kris Dyer.
He's narrated 200 audiobooks, and in this episode he shares how he started; why this kind of "public speaking" suits an introvert; how he aims to "channel" each author, what he did when a character he'd voiced as a Londoner turned out in book four of a series to be necessarily Scottish; what he did about voicing Winston Churchill, and the absolute necessity of reading aloud anything you write.
Find Kris here: http://www.krisdyer.co.uk/
In which I reveal what happened to Brendan Barns, after he put his home up as collateral to pay for his quirky dream. Plus, a real life example of someone wondering how to make best use of material that may not, initially, seem entirely promising. And some animal sounds, just because.
In this episode, I tell you about a man I interviewed (in real life) a while ago, because I interviewed him again more recently (on Zoom, in lockdown) and I think you might like to know his backstory first. He's Brendan Barns.
Plus... I share a short highlight from an interview with Dr Guy Hayward, an all-round entertainer and polymath who inspired me to do last year's Virtual Pilgrimage (and this years too).
And... your good fortune really is boundless today because in this episode I also share a handful of facts about a remarkable writer, Hilaire Belloc - who helped to re-create the notion of pilgrimage in the UK. His book, which Guy mentions, can be found here.
And finally... I continue to experiment with sound effects because - well, this is audio, right, and I'm enjoying myself.
Creative Conscience helps young people focus on using their talents to share things that matter. In this episode I tell a group of people I don’t know the crucial importance of focusing on your audience...
That focus, and a clear sense of purpose, is much more important than anything else...
Find out more about Creative Conscience here.
My new book is out. I just got hold of my first copies. It feels like I'm back on my feet as a writer.
In this episode, I interview my agent Jaime Marshall about how A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech came into being - with particular reference to the title, and the book proposal Jaime submitted to my publisher, Short Books.
You can see the photo of me waving my book at Jaime on my blog.
You can buy the book here: https://amzn.to/3cyiuEN
If you send me proof of purchase I will send you a signed, limited edition post-card sized print of my own art. The offer is only available in the UK, I'm afraid - and there are only 100 prints available (so don't hang around!).
Also in this episode, I mention something coming up in April, where you will be able to join me as we swap stories...
Till next time!
Training in theatrical impro with Keith Johnstone, I learned to play The Rejection Game, in which one of the four people on stage must be rejected by the other three.
Playing the game teaches how to exclude - but also how to include. And it teaches us that we can't focus on everybody all the time. Someone, somewhere, is liable to feel left out at times.
Plainly, this has important consequences in everyday life, but it also applies very much to anybody thinking of public speaking - the subject of my new book. I was trying to think of a way to share something about this, when I happened to hear from somebody who had attended a workshop I delivered some years ago...
In this episode, you'll hear Mercer's questions, and a short demonstration of The Rejection Game from the time I was in Belfast with Mercer.
I met Jo Gubbay when I was in a very dark place, on the Talk For Health training course that was the subject of the previous episode.
Despite seeing me in a bad way - or, in fact, because of that - Jo invited me to speak to hundreds of people at her workplace, one of the most prestigious law firms in the world.
Jo is highly regarded in her field, as a lawyer herself with oodles of experience at the top of learning and development. But I had little self esteem at the time, and didn’t believe I had much to offer. In this episode, recorded two years later, I ask Jo to describe what happened.
For my Events page, go here: https://flintoff.org/art/events/
For Freesound, go here: https://freesound.org/
I shouldn't have done it, but in this episode I do it again - one last time - then I apologise. Later in the episode, as part of my research for an article about how public speaking helped in my recovery, I talk to a psychotherapist who discovered that lay people, given a bit of training, could be just as helpful as - well, psychotherapists.
One of the people she trained, as you will hear, was me.
I welcome your comments and questions. Send an email - or better still leave a voice message and I might use it in an upcoming episode.
Find out more about Nicky Forsythe and Talk for Health here: https://talkforhealth.co.uk/ Buy Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy by friend Philippa Perry, with new illustrations by Flo Perry, here: https://amzn.to/3pmffDQ See the amazing photography of Pal Hansen here: https://www.palhansen.com/ Thank you to Freesound, and the people who upload audio files there: https://freesound.org/home/
Audiences on Zoom, like audiences anywhere else, like to be acknowledged. They like to be "seen". If you can't literally see into their eyes, there are other ways to acknowledge them.
This episode features a short highlight from a recent online workshop in which I challenged individuals to "see" each other. I'm indebted to Keith Johnstone, author of Impro, who first taught me this exercise.
Buy Keith's classic book, Impro: https://amzn.to/3sRJVPA
And (from me) A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech: https://amzn.to/3iIHGtj
Presidential Inauguration speeches are rare: just one every four years. To mark the special occasion, here's a bonus episode, featuring an interview with Jay Heinrichs, author of the New York Times bestseller Thank You For Arguing.
We touch on the differences between British and American speaking styles, and Jay shares a remarkable discovery he made when he researched the differences between Democrat and Republican political speeches - a difference that may help to explain why Republicans have consistently been more successful than polls might suggest.
If you'd like to hear more from Jay, send me a message with your question, and I'll ask him for another interview. Or ask him directly. His website is here: https://jayheinrichs.com/
Jay's book: https://amzn.to/2KJYQdk
My book: https://amzn.to/39ZJ7zz
In this episode, festival organiser Helen Bagnall says that speakers who have something worthwhile to say can do it "all wrong" and still be good - adding that the TED style talk isn't always right.
Later in the episode, I share with you what I got back from the magazine after submitting the story I read aloud in Episode 1 - and what I did about it.
Read about Helen by clicking here: Salon London.
"Most of us dread speaking, even to a small gathering of friends and family. I certainly did, until I had spoken publicly often enough for all my greatest fears to have come true..."
I've written and submitted a story to a magazine about my greatest humiliations as a public speaker. I've read it aloud for this first episode, along with a short interview I did with an incredible man who lived trapped inside his body for 14 years, unable to communicate. I hope you find Martin Pistorius as inspiring as I do.
We all have something to share, and self-expression is a gift. Whether you do it by writing, drawing or speaking, I hope this podcast will encourage you to do it more.
Find out more about Martin.