I’ve recently started a part-time secondment to CILIP to work on their Future Skills Project. You may already be aware of the project, which has been working on the recommendations from the Defining our Professional Future report to review the CPD offering:

The Future Skills Project is reviewing CILIP’s qualifications to ensure every member gets the recognition they deserve from their employers and society for a unique suite of highly valuable, relevant and endurable skills.

This review has created the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB), the revised model for delivering Accreditation of academic and vocational qualifications and the suite of CILIP qualifications.

The two Future Skills Project Workers (one of whom is myself), are now working on preparing the material to support Professional Registration (i.e. Certification, Chartership, Fellowship, and Revalidation). We’ll be working on the recommendations from the project board and the information collected during the project (focus groups, surveys, etc.) but I’d like to pose a few of my own, more specific, questions to ensure what we produce is relevant and useful to current candidates and potential candidates. One of the first tasks I’m working on is thinking about what information needs to be in the handbooks provided by CILIP to guide you through the qualifications (see the current Certification handbook, Chartership handbook, Fellowship handbook and Revalidation handbook). I’d be interested in your views – please feel free to respond to any or all of these questions by commenting on the blog post or you can email me directly.

If you are currently working towards a CILIP qualification or have recently completed one:

What information in the handbook or on the CILIP website did you find useful in helping you complete your qualification?

Were there any resources outside of the handbook that you found useful? (e.g. book chapters, websites, articles, blog posts etc.) What did you find so useful about them?

Was there anything missing or unclear from the handbook?

What guidance would you have liked to see and in what format? (For example, we’ve seen mention of things like flowcharts for the process from start to finish, checklists of what you need to do and when – what would you have found useful?)

If you have considered a CILIP qualification:

Did you read the handbook? What did you think? Was there anything else you would have liked to know?

If you chose not to work towards the qualification, was there any information (or lack of) which contributed to your decision?

I’ll be working on the Future Skills project for the next three months and may well be asking for more feedback on things along the way, but if you have any comments or suggestions at any point, please email me. We really want to make sure that what we produce is clear, easy to understand and genuinely useful.

I'm not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion...

I’m not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion…

Earlier this week I attended a training session on persuasive speaking, hosted by Future Faces Birmingham. It was delivered by Mimi Hughes of Business Voice. I wasn’t too sure what to expect to be honest, but it proved to be an excellent workshop which I learnt a lot from, particularly about speaking skills.

Mimi began the event by getting us to think about what we mean by persuasive speaking and when we need to persuade. We concluded that in almost any working relationship, we need to utilise persuasion skills – to get people to listen to us, to work collaboratively, or to delegate work, as well as the more immediate examples such as selling, negotiating, or asking for a promotion/payrise.

We were then introduced to the three main components of persuasiveness:

  1. Presence
  2. Message
  3. Mechanism

We also discussed personal impact and presentation skills which are important in all three components.

Mimi then asked some very brave volunteers (she referred to them as ‘Have a go heroes’ which I liked as a term) to come to the front and speak to the rest of the room about their organisation. They only had a minute to speak and they were recorded, and then we all watched them back (see what I mean when I said they were very brave! In return they got some really useful feedback). This exercise was all about presence and the following tips were shared with us to help improve:

  • Opening lines and the way you start are key. Your audience makes a subconscious judgment before you have even spoken
  • Body language very important – stand squarely on to people and straight (keep confident)
  • Don’t stand behind desks or flip charts – need to show your presence
  • Your voice needs to reach out to people furthest away from you (you can practice this by projecting your voice against a wall and gradually moving further back)
  • Need to pause between key points – pausing is key in persuasion
  • Don’t use preparation words before each sentence (Ok, Right, Um) – know what you’re going to say and start on the positive words
  • Look like you’re interested in what you are saying in order to be interesting to others
  • Let your hands move if they want to – good to use your hands as they give out energy
  • Settle your hands in a comfortable middle position where they can move easily from (ideal position is joined together at the waist, not too low or behind you)
  • Movement is good as it adds energy – though needs to be definite, not just shuffling from side to side
  • Moving the face also important to show enthusiasm
  • Um and err are not too intrusive as long as they are not used excessively, though pausing is better
  • If you want to move when you start speaking, take a step forward not backwards
  • It’s good practice to engage with people as they enter the room and encourage people to respond to your greeting (ask for their name and what they do/how they are) as it helps breaks down barriers
  • Shaking hands and making positive eye contact is also good as again helps break down barriers
  • Good to tap into something your audience are familiar with and tap into their emotions

We then focused on the message element and how to tailor the message to maximise its effectiveness. Mimi emphasised the importance of focusing on the key idea(s) you are trying to get across, and considering how to ensure the audience (in broad terms, this could be just a one-to-one conversation) will take that away. In order to achieve this, the audience needs to be able to repeat the message and the best way to get to this is to keep the message clear and brief. In presentations, Mim recommended only aiming to talk for around 10 minutes, and dedicate longer time to Q&A to extend the dialogue and cement the message. We then completed an exercise preparing the key messages about our organisation using the following model:

Model for constructing message

Model for constructing message

In the model, the roof is the conclusion you want people to walk away with (you may mention what this is, but you may not). You want the audience to walk away with the conclusion based on the evidence you provide them with through the three pillars, which act as the different messages you deliver. Three is an ideal number, though you can manage with 2-4 (as can a building). 1 isn’t really enough to get them to believe in the conclusion, whilst too many will make the messages less memorable and weaken the argument. We did this as an activity with our own organisations and two more ‘Have a go heroes’ presented about their organisations using this model. You’ll probably also have noticed that Mimi practices what she preaches as our whole workshop was based on this model with the three components of persuasion as the three key messages.

We also discussed how to handle questions, which is a key part of helping get your message across. The main things here were to listen very carefully to the questions, and think about the answer you are going to give before speaking. You want to aim to “build, bridge, and reinforce” in your response so that you bring it back to your key messages and help cement that in their minds. You’ll also need to stay focused and keep it brief but tailored to the audience. If you don’t know the answer to the question, be cautious about winging it – if you don’t know enough to do so, be honest and tell the person you’ll find out and get back to them (and make sure you do). We also discussed hostility and Mimi warned us to be careful as we may be seeing nervousness and recognising it as hostility – generally, people won’t be hostile, and if they are, let it wash over you.

We briefly discussed the mechanics, such as using presentation slides only to illustrate the key messages but keeping the focus on what you’re going to say; making sure you have the right people for group presentations (some may need to be there to respond to questions but don’t need to present as too many can dilute the message); not leaning on lecturns or tables when speaking as this comes across as too relaxed and like you’re not really interested; and listen carefully in two-way conversations and again try to link what they are saying back to your key messages.

Mimi ended the workshop by sharing some exercises of things we can do to help improve our persuasive skills by improving our presence, message and mechanism. Some of them may seem a little silly at first (she got us up on our feet flopping our bodies over to help our posture, and reading stories aloud to practice our pitch and pausing), but I really think they’re going to be useful tools in helping improve my skills.

What next?

I’m currently preparing some conference presentations and webinars and found this workshop really useful for helping me plan these further. It’s caused me to reflect on the best way to use my allotted time, the materials I develop to support what I’m going to say, and the way I hope to present myself. I was really pleased to learn that it’s OK to use your hands when you talk as I naturally do this a lot and was worried it came across as too much arm flailing. Mimi reassured us that as long as it is natural, it’s very rare for it to come across as too much. One thing I know I need to work on is pausing. I tend to speak very quickly in normal conversation, and even moreso when the adrenaline is pumping and I’m giving presentations. I fill what little thinking time I allow myself with ‘um’ as well, so I’m hoping to practice talking more clearly and pausing when presenting key points to help them stand out.

I also have a training session next week on making presentations and giving briefings, so I’m hoping some of what I learnt in this workshop will be repeated and it might help it stick!

Running woman

I look just like this when I run – happy, relaxed, no hint of tomato face, flyaway hair or flailing limbs (clearly a lie)

This weekend I ran 5k. Believe me, no one is more surprised about this than I am. I’m not a runner. At all. Eight weeks ago I struggled to run for 3 minutes, but now I can keep going for more than 30 minutes. One day I decided I wanted to improve my fitness so I thought I’d go out for a jog, and decided to give the Couch to 5K (C25K) programme a go – I used a C25K mobile app. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the full programme but out I went and I actually quite enjoyed it. I went out three times a week, stuck to the programme, trusted it and made progress. And this weekend, at the end of my eight weeks, I ran the full 5k. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fast, but I did it. The process has taught me so much about myself and I wanted to share that. This blog post isn’t about telling everyone to get out there and run (though it is surprisingly enjoyable), but what I learnt during this process applies to so many things in life and it was good to have those reminders.

  1. If you set your mind to doing something, and it’s a realistic goal, you can do it

I honestly didn’t think I was ever likely to be able to run for over 30 minutes, but I believed the c25k programme and stuck to it. Each time it got a little harder, I went out with part of me thinking I couldn’t do it, but I went out regardless, put my trust in the programme and my body, and I managed to complete every single one of the training days.

  1. Sometimes, having people who don’t think you can do it can be a really useful thing

After my second run (where the majority is still walking rather than running), I got back and my partner joked, “Well you’ve done it twice now, is that it?”. I do go through fads so it was a valid comment (and also to be fair to him he is incredibly supportive of anything he knows I want to achieve). That comment however seemed to change my blasé approach to the programme. Suddenly I had a challenge; to prove to him, and myself, that I can stick to things and can improve my fitness. IT IS ON!

  1. You’re probably more capable than you think

How often do you think you’d like to do something but decide not to try because you don’t think you’d be able to do it. Next time you find yourself in that situation, I urge you to commit to trying. I bet you can do a lot more than you think. I honestly never thought I’d be able to keep running for that time or distance, but it actually only took 8 weeks. You won’t know if you don’t try so give it a go, and believe in yourself.

  1. Lots of small, incremental developments can lead to much greater progress

Common sense, I know, but sometimes it just seems like a goal is so far away, yet if you break it down into tiny progressive steps, you’ll have achieved the larger goal before you know it. I take this approach with many things – I have a number of large projects on the go but I break each of them down into smaller tasks which help get me towards the bigger goal.

  1. Learning a new skill or achieving a goal is incredibly fulfilling

I love learning new things. Over the past year or so, I’ve taken up a few different hobbies, and the one thing they all have in common is learning new skills. Every knitting project I do for example, I learn how to do something new, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Running has taught me a lot about myself – mind and body – and getting to the goal of being able to run 5k was a fantastic feeling.

So what aims do you have? How are you going to get there? You can do it, I know you can!

Closing the contract

Closing the contract

Yesterday evening I attended a Future Faces event on negotiation skills. We received a brief presentation and then had chance to do a group challenge based on a case study. I found some of the things covered in the presentation really useful so though I would share them.

I’ve got to be honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this joint event with CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) – I’m not involved in sales or purchasing, and I’m not in a position to be able to negotiate my salary (two of the examples on the event blurb) but I hoped it might give me some tips and develop some generic skills which I might be able to apply to other contexts. I was therefore very glad that the event started with an overview of how we might be able to use the tips and techniques from the session in other contexts in both our work life (such as negotiating better deals/terms, not just financial negotiation) and our personal life (for all purchases and agreements).

The presentation from Jo McDowall from CIPS on negotiating took us through the phases of negotiation:

  1. Preparation and planning
  2. Opening
  3. Testing
  4. Movement
  5. Closing

She then gave us some tips on how to prepare and plan for negotiation. This included understanding your own requirements (what you need, not what you want), researching the other party to understand potential negotiation points, deciding on your targets (what you would like in an ideal situation, your realistic expectations, and what you would accept as a fallback i.e. minimum), and recognising any assumptions. Again it was highlighted that you need to consider all aspects of the deal, not just price. Using the example of buying a car, you might want to consider your ideal, realistic and fallback options for things like servicing, warrantee, accessories, full tank of fuel, payment terms etc. Jo highlighted the importance of beginning negotiations with your ideal situation, and shared an anecdote with us;

If you don’t feel embarrassed by what you ask for, you are not asking for enough

I can certainly see the logic behind this (after all, sometimes you might get what you want!), though in reality I know I’m far more likely to go in with a realistic negotiation rather than an ideal one as I feel really uncomfortable asking for too much. Definitely something to consider though – what are you willing to sacrifice and what are you not willing to budge on?

We were also taken through the planning process for the stages of negotiation:

  • Opening – The more you ask for, the more you get
  • Testing – Never accept the first offer
  • Movement – Aim to get maximum wish list whilst giving away little
  • Closing – Don’t take no for an answer

The group challenge got us to apply this learning into a real life example. It was an interesting task though sadly there wasn’t much time to discuss it in detail. I was glad we had the opportunity to consider how to apply what we had learnt though, and consider how the ideal, realistic and fallback situations could work in practice.

Do you have any tips for successful negotiation or additional things to bear in mind?

My three year term on the CILIP West Midlands committee has come to an end (two years as Marketing Officer, one year as Chair), and I only have a few months left chairing the ALA NMRT Online Discussion Forum committee, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my experiences and dispel some myths about chairing committees I’ve come across during my time as chair.

Only men over 50 can join committees

Only businessmen over 50 can join committees

Myth 1: You have to have X years of experience within the profession to chair a committee

Until I joined a committee I had assumed that everyone on the committee, and particularly the chair, secretary and treasurer, must have worked in the profession for a long time in order to know things inside out. What I have since realised is that though there is definitely value in having people on the committee who do have this extensive knowledge and experience, it’s not essential for each individual member to have that. In fact, those new to the profession have just as much to contribute as they are likely to have fresh ideas and suggestions for new ways of doing things – and they can take on roles such as chair, secretary and treasurer to possibly challenge the way things are done and make some changes. And that’s most definitely a good thing.

Myth 2: You have to know the committee and wider organisation inside out to chair a committee

Again, not necessarily true. All you need is a willingness to learn – coming to a committee afresh is of course likely to mean more time invested at the beginning to understand how things work. Experiences here may well differ depending on the organisation and committee, but there is often guidance for new committee members. In ALA New Members Round Table (NMRT) for example, there is a handbook wiki which contains all the information each committee needs. It includes details on the remit of the committee, key responsibilities and milestones for the year, reporting mechanisms, and who to go to for help. In addition, each committee is overseen by a member of the NMRT board so you always have people to turn to if you need further help.

Both CILIP and ALA are complex organisations and I’m willing to bet that the majority of committee members and chairs only know about a very small section of the organisation. A willingness to learn is again all that is needed here, and both organisations have council members who are incredibly helpful if you have any questions. They’ll also welcome new ideas so if it seems strange that something is done a certain way, ask the question and see if it can be improved.

This was the top image search for committee - not like any I've ever been on

This was the top result for a stock image search for committee – it’s not like any I’ve ever been on!

Myth 3: You have to be in a management role (or have held one previously) to chair a committee

Chairing a committee is a form of managing people, so any experience in this area helps, but it’s not essential – everyone has to start somewhere! I’m told it’s a very different experience to line management and I can definitely see that would be the case. It’s not a daily demand (for most committees anyway!), and committee members are usually volunteers so it’s a different type of situation, which of course has its pros and cons. Chairing a committee could be a useful way to get experience managing people if you don’t get the opportunity to do so in your job but would like to in future. As long as you’re willing to chair meetings and provide support for managing the work of your committee members, that’s all you really need.

Myth 4: You have to hold and attend a lot of face-to-face meetings to chair a committee

The number of meetings will vary depending on the remit and responsibilities of the committee, but sometimes these can be held virtually and for some committees no meetings are necessary at all. For most CILIP committees there seems to be a general acceptance that committees should meet face to face at least 4 times per year, however according to the current branch rules it is recommended that the committee meets as many times as is deemed necessary (which could of course be only once for the Annual General Meeting). Some committees never meet in person (this is the case for the NMRT committee I chair), whilst others meet regularly but rely mainly on virtual rather than physical meetings. Of course it’s still important for the chair to be comfortable to chair the meeting(s) and conversations however they occur, but I wanted to highlight the fact that his doesn’t necessarily mean numerous physical meetings. If you can’t commit to that, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t chair a committee.

Myth 5: You have to dedicate your life to a committee to act as chair

Well I didn’t, though I confess there were busy periods where a lot of my time was taken up with committee work (though I was on three committees, two of which I chaired). It doesn’t have to be a massive commitment though. You’re there to help steer and direct the committee, not do all the work. This was initially a difficult lesson to learn for me, but essential both for my well-being and for the sustainability of the committees. Clearly, you need to care about the core values of the committee to enable it to succeed, but if you can only give a limited amount of time, that’s absolutely fine – just choose a committee that suits. I would estimate that chairing CILIP West Midlands took on average around 1-2hrs of my time per week, whereas chairing the NMRT Online Discussion Forum Committee takes around 1-2hrs of my time per month. Committees vary hugely in this and depend on the type of committee – those with a specific purpose often have key periods of time that are particularly busy (e.g. conference organising committees) so you’ll need to take that into consideration.

So, that doesn’t sound so bad really does it? I’ve really enjoyed my time on both committees (and the CILIP Career Development Group West Midlands division committee which I was part of from 2009 to 2012). I can’t quite believe how much I’ve learnt in that time – about the organisations, about other people, and about myself. There have been highs, there have been lows, there have been lots of discussions and emails, and some fun and silliness thrown in too. Overall, it’s been a great experience and one I’d encourage people to participate in to help develop their skills and support their professional organisations (being involved in making it happen is one of the best ways to make sure the organisation is meeting your needs).

For both ALA and CILIP most chair roles are one year terms, with general committee terms for CILIP lasting three years. I recommend finding committees that interest you and seeing if you can get involved. Unless there are confidentiality issues, most meetings will be open so you can go along and see what the committee does – or just reach out to the current chair to get information. If you’re an ALA member, many of the divisions and round tables have volunteer forms for getting involved in committees (such as the NMRT volunteer form which I believe is still currently accepting applications). If you do become a committee chair, you might be interested in my earlier blog post on tips for chairing meetings.

I recently received a Innergie 3 in 1 Magic Cable Trio to review, and was looking forward to testing it out. Anyone who has seen me at a meeting or event will know I always have a charger with me and am usually found by a socket or frantically looking for one. I tend to have Apple devices with me for short trips, so one charging cable is usually sufficient (though I do sometimes use a Belkin double adapter so I can charge both at the same time if necessary). For longer trips though I have other devices with me so need more cables (e.g. Kindle charging cable). I was really pleased to hear about this 3 in 1 USB charging cable which could be used to charge a number of different devices just from the one cable. You can only charge one at a time, though that’s what I was expecting (some reviews have mentioned the fact you can only charge one thing at once but I don’t see that as too much of a problem). However, for me there is one big problem…


It’s just not long enough. I’m not going to go down the whole ‘size doesn’t matter’ argument because in this case it really does. This charger is only useful if you want your device *right* next to the plug socket. It’s unlikely you’d be able to practically use it whilst being plugged in as it’s just too close.


For suspended sockets it wouldn’t even reach the floor. You can’t use it on a train as it won’t reach the tiny distance from the socket on the side of the table to the top of the table.


The connectors cover a wide range of devices, and it does work – I’ve used it to charge my iPad and my Kindle and both worked fine. The three connectors are for Apple devices (old version, not Lightning Connector), Mini USB and Micro USB. You have to be careful to ensure the connectors are all pushed in flush for the electricity to flow, but the device seems robust in this way so I don’t foresee any problems unless it is used excessively. I like the way all connectors stay attached even if not in use – much preferable to multiple separate connectors which can be easy to lose.

I just can’t ever imagine myself using this though, not unless I also had a longer USB to USB connector which sort of defeats the object of only having to carry one cable. On the packaging it said the cable was 20cm in length, but I find that misleading as that’s from the very edges of the connectors either side. So I’m afraid I don’t recommend this cable – great idea, just not well executed in my opinion.

UPDATE: I’ve had a response to my review from the company:

Our main goal is to deliver a cable that can truly transfer 2.1 Amp. That is also a requirement for the MFi (Made For iPod/iPad/iPhone) certification from Apple. Due to the 3 connectors included, this is the maximum length of the cable to reach this high performance. Another benefit is of course that it is a very compact cable, that does not clutter in your bag.

For consumers who like the idea of the Magic Cable with multiple tips, but do wish to have a longer version, we recommend the Magic Cable Duo. That cable has one connector less (mini USB), but that made it possible to increase the length to 79cm.