Make your ideas STICKY

Once you can speak with clarity and confidence your next step is to make sure your message counts. Chip and Dan heath are here to help with their seminal book "Made to Stick"

Once you can speak, what should you say?

When describing the qualities of great presenters or public speakers, people will often use words like confidence, assurance, charisma, poise. Some will talk of cadence and delivery, others, confident movement and ‘commanding the stage.’ Also rated as important are qualities such as authenticity, sincerity, likability, and integrity. So far none this tells us much about content, or message, but rather the speaker’s persona and their delivery.

Achieving these qualities is something I train people to do. But once you can speak what do you want to say? We report wanting ‘speakers’ to be ‘communicative, concise, clear, illuminating, engaging, and insightful…’ but what exactly is this is? How do we know it’s happened? And perhaps we should also consider what the speaker wants from their audience?

I was reading “Made to Stick” by American authors, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and was struck but their description of an exercise they do each year in the course they run at Sandford. They give the students some government data on crime and ask half to present a one-minute speech arguing that this data reveals a serious problem and the other half to argue the opposite. After all the speeches are made, the students are asked to rate each speaker, and unsurprisingly the most polished and charismatic speakers get the highest ratings. But here’s the twist: the students then watch an unrelated film for 10 minutes (basically, they are distracted) then abruptly asked to write down what they remember from each student speech. The students are stunned at how little they remember from the speeches they heard just ten minutes before – almost nothing! The authors conclude that there is almost no correlation between speaking talent and the ability to make ideas stick in the minds of the audience. (Heath: 2008, pg 242-3)  

I felt somewhat deflated reading this, since a lot of what I do is develop speaking talent. Now, I guess it is entirely possible that there are circumstances where it is not important that the audience recalls the details of a speech, maybe all you really need is for them to agree, or perhaps empathise. But if you want your audience to walk away from your presentation or speech, remembering and even acting upon what you have said it seems there is more work to do.

Working as an acting teacher I dealt a lot with narrative forms and rhetoric and have found this to be extremely helpful in coaching public speaking. I took a real leap forward when I combining these very established (ummm old) ideas with much newer wisdom of advertising and marketing. And a book that was extremely helpful; was the aforementioned "Made to Stick" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

This wonderful book elucidates the principles behind creating ideas that are memorable, impactful, and long-lasting. The Heaths delve into the psychology of why certain ideas stick in our minds while others fade away. Through a mix of real-life stories, research, and practical examples, the book provides readers with a comprehensive framework for crafting ideas that are both simple and profound.

Sticky ideas have six essential traits which are worked through in the book: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories (SUCCESs). I found the case studies really helped to fully understand the ideas and it is DEFINITLEY worth reading the book in its entirely. In this blog I have tried to summarises the principles outlines in the book very briefly, and then in a bit more detail.

Simple - Stripping an idea down to its core

By embracing simplicity communicators can increase the chance of their ideas being understood, remembered, and acted upon.

Unexpected - Capturing and maintaining attention.

By breaking patterns, introducing surprises, and leveraging the human tendency to seek closure, communicators can create memorable moments and keep the audience hooked.

Concrete - Making Ideas Tangible.

By using sensory language, relatable analogies, specific details, and vivid stories, communicators can make their ideas more tangible and as a result memorable.

Credible - Building Trust and Believability

By leveraging authorities, providing vivid details, using statistics effectively, and incorporating testimonials, communicators can enhance the believability of their ideas.

Emotional - Making People Care

By appealing to self-interest, leveraging positive associations, tapping into identities, and creating surprises, communicators can create connections with their audience and increase the chances of their ideas resonating.

Stories - Power of Narrative

By utilising narrative structures, identifying core messages, using stories to convey values, communicators can captivate the audience. By harnessing the inherent emotional and memorable qualities of storytelling, ideas become more relatable, persuasive and enduring.

In more detail...


Simplicity is a crucial element of effective communication because complex or convoluted messages will often fail to resonate or be remembered.  

The enemy of simplicity is the ‘Curse of Knowledge’ - the difficulty experts face in communicating their ideas in simple terms. When experts are deeply knowledgeable about a subject, they can struggle to simplify their ideas or tend to assume that others possess a comparable level of understanding. However, this assumption can lead to a communication gap where the message fails to connect with its intended audience.  

To combat the Curse of Knowledge, the authors present the US military concept of the "Commander's Intent," as a tool for simplifying messages. The Commander's Intent is a concise and crystal-clear statement that outlines the ultimate goal and desired outcome of a mission. It helps to align everyone involved and allows for decentralized decision-making while keeping the mission's core objective intact.  

Simplicity does not mean dumbing down ideas but rather finding the essential core and expressing it in a way that is easy to grasp. Ask yourself what your core message is, use analogies to make complex ideas relatable, and focusing on the most critical details rather than overwhelming the audience with excessive information.

To be ‘Simple’ you need to prioritise the most important and relevant information to prevent cognitive overload. By stripping away unnecessary details and distilling the essence of the message, communicators can make their ideas more accessible and memorablut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Unexpectedness – TA DAH!

Creating moments of surprise and breaking patterns is an effective strategy for making ideas stick in the minds of others. This is supported by ‘Gap Theory.’ According to this theory, people have a natural tendency to seek closure when faced with a knowledge gap or an incomplete pattern, therefore by introducing unexpected elements or disrupting established patterns, communicators can create curiosity and intrigue in their audience, compelling them to pay attention.

You can introduce an unexpected element, present a mystery, or challenge conventional wisdom. By doing so, you can jolt your audience out of their comfort zones and pique their curiosity, making them more receptive to the message being conveyed.It is important to maintain interest and attention throughout the communication process. You need to fight "Habituation," the tendency of individuals to become accustomed to repeated stimuli and lose interest over time. To combat habituation, include occasional surprises, such as unexpected twists or novel experiences to re-engage the audience and prevent their attention from waning.

The "Aha!" moment—the sudden realization or discovery of a solution. By creating a knowledge gap and then providing the missing piece of information, communicators can generate a sense of satisfaction and engagement in their audience.orem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.


Abstract ideas are often difficult for people to grasp and remember, while concrete examples and vivid details make ideas more tangible and relatable.

The "Velcro Theory of Memory," suggests that people's minds are more likely to latch onto and remember concrete information because abstract ideas lack the "hooks" that allow them to stick in memory, whereas concrete details provide something tangible for the mind to hold onto.

To make ideas more concrete you can use sensory language that appeals to the senses and creates a vivid mental image for the audience. By incorporating specific details and descriptions, communicators can bring their ideas to life and make them more memorable.

You can use relatable analogies and examples. By connecting abstract concepts to familiar situations or objects, you can make your ideas more accessible and easier to understand. Analogies serve as mental bridges that help people grasp complex ideas by drawing parallels to something they already know.

Provide specific details and vivid anecdotes that exemplify your main idea. By using concrete stories and real-life examples, communicators can make their messages more relatable and engaging, enabling the audience to connect emotionally and intellectually with the idea being presented.

Again, we need to avoid "Curse of Knowledge" when communicating ideas. Communicators must remember that their audience may not have the same level of expertise or familiarity with the subject matter. By simplifying complex concepts and using concrete language, communicators can bridge the knowledge gap and ensure their ideas are accessible to a wider audience.


To enhance credibility, you should use credible sources to back up the idea. By referencing experts, statistics, or well-known figures, communicators you can lend legitimacy to your ideas and increase their persuasiveness. Tangible details make ideas more believable and help to overcome scepticism. By offering concrete evidence, specific examples, and details that engage the senses, communicators can build trust and make their ideas more memorable.

Statistics can be used to add credibility, however, avoid overwhelming the audience with numbers. Instead use statistics selectively and provide context to make them more relatable and understandable. The "Human Scale Principle" makes statistics more personal and relatable can enhance their impact and credibility.

Use external validators and testimonials. By showcasing real-life stories and testimonials from individuals who have experienced the benefits or results of the idea, communicators can create a sense of authenticity and credibility.


Communicators can tap into the power of emotions to make their messages resonate with the audience; this can be done by appealing to self-interest. People are naturally inclined to prioritize their own well-being and needs. By connecting an idea to the audience's self-interest and highlighting the benefits or value it offers, communicators can make the idea more compelling and emotionally relevant.

By connecting an idea to positive emotions or previously established positive associations, communicators can evoke positive feelings and increase the idea's appeal. Conversely, they caution against associating an idea with negative emotions that can hinder its stickiness.

The power of identity. People often align themselves with certain identities or groups, and by tapping into those identities, communicators can make ideas more personally meaningful. By framing an idea in a way that aligns with an individual's self-perception or group affiliation, communicators can create emotional connections and enhance the stickiness of the idea.

Surprises and curiosity also play a role in generating emotional engagement. By introducing unexpected elements, creating knowledge gaps, or presenting mysteries, communicators can arouse curiosity and evoke emotions such as intrigue and excitement. This emotional engagement increases attention and the likelihood of the idea sticking in people's minds.


Stories have a unique ability to capture people's attention, create emotional connections, and make ideas more memorable and relatable. There are limits to using data and statistics alone to convey ideas. While data can provide evidence, it often fails to inspire or engage an audience. In contrast, stories have the power to humanize ideas, making them more relatable and memorable.

The "Challenge Plot" revolves around a protagonist facing obstacles, working towards a goal, and ultimately achieving success or transformation. By framing ideas within this narrative structure, communicators can create tension, emotional investment, and a sense of progress that captivates the audience.

"The Story Spine" consists of a simple template with key narrative elements, such as a character with a goal, facing obstacles, and experiencing resolution. By following this structure, communicators can ensure their stories are coherent, engaging, and impactful.

It is important to identify the core message or takeaway within a story. Stories should have a clear and actionable message that aligns with the idea being conveyed. By distilling the main point of the story, communicators can reinforce the central idea and increase its stickiness.

Stories can be used to convey values and connect with the audience on a deeper level. Stories that embody the values and principles behind an idea can foster emotional connections, build trust, and create a lasting impact. If you want to know more then read the full version.

Made to Stick is a valuable resource for professionals, educators, marketers, and anyone seeking to break through the noise and create ideas that truly resonate with their intended audience. It provides a comprehensive framework for creating ideas that stick, combining the SUCCESs principles. The authors present a practical checklist to guide the process of crafting sticky ideas and offer insights on overcoming obstacles to stickiness.  Made to Stick" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: Unleashing the Power of Memorable Ideas.

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Communication Styles: the art of adaptation.

The skill of skills for anyone is the spotlight is ‘adaptation’ - the ability to respond to your audience and adapt your communication style to accommodate theirs. Generating business and leading your company is easier when you can craft concise and compelling messages adaptable to any personality, handle challenging Q&A sessions, and master the art of active listening. The first step is to identify your own communication style.

The Final Flourish

You've overcome your nerves, you've developed your physical and vocal delivery skills, you've harnessed rhetoric and mastered the art of creating content that achieves your specific objectives. You can finally say you are at a place where you can present your ideas in an articulate and effective manner with conviction…. And then… …you are presented with a ‘difficult’ audience, people who seem to resist your ideas, they ask difficult questions and don't think the way you do.

What went wrong? Well, it could be a mismatch in ‘communication styles.'

It’s important to understand that different people communicate in different ways; some are more emotional and others more analytical, some see the big picture whilst others focus on the details. By identifying your personal communication style and then learning to adapt to other styles you will be able to deal with negative reactions and communicate your ideas to anyone.

Problems can arise when we don't understand that we have a particular communication style, and that it might not be the same as everyone else’s. I witnessed a speaker lose his temper in a Q&A session because he felt belittled by an audience member who was asking what 'the point' of his presentation was. The audience member genuinely seemed to be trying to assimilate the presentation. It turned out that the problem was that the speaker was deep in the detail, but the audience member couldn't understand the detail without knowing the big picture.

The conflict was actually between their communication styles. It is important to understand that there are different communication styles and that sometimes interactions that might seem negative or hostile are actually the result of a communication mismatch.

There are various schemas of proposed communications styles but the one I find most useful is Mark Murphy’s: it identifies four main styles, defined by two binaries. The four styles are; Analytical, Intuitive, Functional, and Personal.

Murphy states that there are 2 main ‘philosophical’ differences between different types of communicators:

How much you communicate with emotion versus data

How much you communicate in a linear versus freeform manner

These communication styles exist on a spectrum, so you are rarely 100% one style. You may also switch between styles depending on the situation.


An analytical communicator favours data and hard numbers.

They want quantifiable information and consider emotional statements as vague or irrelevant. Preferring statements such as "this quarter, sales are up 8.2%, and we are going to exceed our projections by 1.4%" rather than "we’re smashing sales this month!"It is important to have specific and comprehensive data when communicating with this communication style. Present the numbers before making your request/suggestion.

Positives: The analytical communicator is good at looking at issues logically without emotional influence. If an analytical communicator is not performing well, showing them data that illustrates the problem will likely be accepted as proof they need to improve that area of their work. (This approach could be crushing to a personal communicator)

Negatives: a lack of emotion can make analytical communicators seem dismissive and create friction with colleagues. The amount of time spent analysing, calculating, and checking details can make them slow to respond, causing problems with time sensitive opportunities.


An intuitive communicator engages with the wider perspective.

This person will not want to work through details in order to progress in a linear fashion to the outcome, instead they will believe that if the bigger picture works, then by implication, small problems will be resolvable. By seeing how everything fits together the intuitive thinker often problem-solves with ease.When you communicate with this person start with overview then detail, "This project will use a new algorithm to target potential customers with more precision!" rather than "First, we will A/B test the new algorithm, then develop three levels of tailored content, then we will deploy the project, then use these metrics to measure our success."

Positives: They quickly understand ideas and the implications of those ideas, and are just as quick to find solutions to possible challenges. They come up with out-of-the-box ideas and enjoy challenging themselves and others.

Negatives: can be impatient and impatience can lead to mistakes. Intuitive thinkers want to skip the boring details but, in the process, they risk missing crucial information. They can be easily aggravated by communicators who need to explain ideas or projects step-by-step, like functional communicators.


The functional communicator prefers to be walked through the steps of the process to conclusion, thus neatly tying it all together.

They are detail-oriented, good at understanding which processes will be the most helpful to ensure success, and they can be trusted to create functional timelines, allocate tasks, and run projects. Preparation is key when dealing with a functional thinker/communicator; avoid getting caught up with metrics, feelings or the big picture and instead come with the practicalities laid out and ready to inspect."We want you to improve the user manual. Can you write the outline, consult with the developers, hire a technical writer, and edit the finished product." will serve you much better than "The user manual could use some improvement? Can you take care of that?"

Positives: their detail-oriented mind won’t miss any important steps. They have strong focus and an innate understanding of what it will take to accomplish each task.

Negatives: They can get lost in the detail to the extent of not accomplishing the actual goals of the project. They can be seen to be pedantic or problematizers, particularly to the intuitive thinker/communicator.


The personal communicator prefers to use emotional language and values the human connection.They tend to be diplomatic; helping to solve conflicts and seeking peaceful solutions to inter- and intradepartmental issues.

In presenting to this person don't leave out the emotional component. "I think our customer success team is feeling burnt out, and their success rate is dropping. Please explore this further, and see if they are feeling like they need more support." Rather than "Customer satisfaction scores have dropped 11% and we’re not going to meet our targets. We need to find and fix this problem now."

Positives: A personal communicator will effortlessly build deep bonds within their team. They build cohesion and often step into a problem-solving role when others struggle.

Negatives: an overly emotional approach can be off-putting for others. The binary reason/emotion might lead others to dismiss the emotional person as lacking credibility.

What does this mean for you?

People highly value authenticity in the delivery of presentations and speeches. Authenticity, clarity and conviction can only come from a speaker finding ‘their voice.'

However, as you become more confident in your presenting, you can try adapting your content so that it will suit all communication styles. This means Including some data for the analytical, some vision for the intuitive, some day-to-day practicalities for the functional, and some relevance and motivation for the personal.

Work out how to frame your key ideas for each style:

If you are all about the data then try to think of the ‘story’ the big picture for an ‘Intuitive’ person – often intuitive people are the big bosses, and are more interested in knowing that it will work rather than how it will work.

Try to anticipate what steps of the process might worry a ‘functional’ person: are there tricky areas, or issues left for others to resolve?

Adaption is most important in Q&A sessions or in discursive spaces after the presentation. Often people ask questions hoping you can translate to their communication style. The question itself may indicate the communication style - so try to answer accordingly.

Analytical: “You say the feedback indicates customers prefer A over B, but to what extent?”
Answer: “The survey had a 75% response rate, and 83% of those said…”

Intuitive: “How is this going to help us improve customer satisfaction?”
Answer: “customers value our speed and attentiveness and this is offset by our slightly higher prices”

Functional: “What parts of the process need to change?”
Answer “there are too many steps in ‘this’ process, streamlining it…”

Personal: “How much more work will this generate?”
Answer: “Although there will be more to do initially, we believe that ultimately this change will positively benefit the workforce”  

When you understand that people might not be asking questions to be difficult but rather because they can’t yet see your ideas from their preferred perspective, you are freed to find a way to connect.

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Good to know.

Everything you need to know about 1:1 Coaching.

How often do we meet?

The programme is designed as 9 x 75 minute zoom sessions over 12 weeks. The sessions can be arranged to best suit your individual learning journey and also any other obligations you might have. For example if your week is busy with work or social engagements you can opt to not have a session that week. Alterativley if we decide that a significant amount of work to happen between sessions to get the most out of the programme again you might want to take additional time to complete that work.  

Is there flexibility?

Yes. The key to success is designing an approach you can stick to. Some people benefit from shorter sessions that are closer together, this gives more support and more accountability. Others benefit from longer sessions further apart, but this requires more discipline and independent work. We will find the best way to work for you.

Can you guarantee results?

If you are engaged in this process and do the work, you will develop. Some shifts can happen quickly but meaningful change often takes time. For example if you have to unlearn habitual behaviours and build new skills, this will time and repetition. We will have concrete goals along the way to maintain motivation.

How does the programme work?

In your initial consultation we will deep dive into your current state of play, and define your aims for our work as well as starting to explore your learning style. We will work thought each of they key pillars of the programme; Somatic Hacks and Rebuild; Skills and Scripting; and High-Stakes Strategy. Selecting the best approaches and tasks that match your specific challenges, learning style and desired outcomes.  

Still have questions?

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