Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Two Years On...

Monday held a breakfast date with my husband at Portobello Beach, a champagne afternoon tea at The Dome on George Street, Edinburgh as a treat from a friend and a lovely e-mail from a client who took part in my very first speaker training course that I delivered as a freelancer.

I have asked Rhoda’s permission to share her email:

‘I just wanted to encourage you that two years later and I’m still using your material. It has revolutionised the way I do presentations and I still tell others about it… Thank you again for your super course and I really hope that many people are benefitting from your wisdom and wonderful teaching style.’

Keeping this blog post short and sweet! But if you would like to join my next course (held in Edinburgh) on January 13th, 20th & 27th then please get in touch at jenny@jennifercornfield.com. For more information simply check the blog post below!


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Perfect Presentation...

In my opinion, Bryan Stevenson (pictured above) gave THE best Ted talk ever. His talk was called; ‘We need to talk about Injustice’ and talk he certainly did! Weaving personal stories in and around the theme of identity and the grave racial injustices that have been and are still prevalent in American society, Stevenson gave a speech that was completely compelling.

 Stevenson is a civil rights attorney and the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit group that provides legal representation to poor defendants who have been denied fair treatment in the criminal justice system.

 In September 2011, the Roosevelt Institute awarded Stevenson a Freedom Medal for his work in the areas of social justice.  A representative from TED was in the audience and he asked him if he would give a TED talk. Stevenson didn’t know much about TED at the time and was inclined to turn the invitation down because he had a huge amount of work on. His staff went ‘ballistic’ and told Stevenson that he had to talk at TED. I would imagine that Stevenson is now glad that he listened to his colleague’s advice as the TED audience was so inspired by Stevenson’s presentation they donated $1 million to his charity, despite the fact he never once mentioned money and he also received the longest standing ovation in TED history. 

Looking at presentations like Stevenson’s and drawing on my own experience of working in the Charity Sector as a communicator and story-teller for the last 14 years, my next speaker training course (which will take place in January 2018)  will look – in detail – at the components that make up the perfect presentation.

If you have to speak on behalf of a charity, a business or even within a church, this course is for you!

On Saturday 13th January (10am – 1pm) we will begin to discover some of the key features of  a presentation that will inspire your listeners to step into the story of the organisation that you might be representing or the sermon that you are preaching.

We will open up the fact that authenticity and vulnerability are key traits of the effective communicator and we will look at what it means in practice to present yourself effectively and honestly in order to engage your audience.

We will spend some time focusing on the personal stories we carry that will be important to hold in focus when we present a talk to others.

We will learn that the word ‘WHY’ is actually the starting place when we want to motivate others support  and engagement. A good communicator never manipulates, focusing on ‘WHY’ helps us to inspire. The missing factor in most ineffective communication is humanity.

The use of story will be a dominant theme throughout the day. We will discover that story is the medium that our brains respond to. If we want people to listen to us – to really hear – we need to understand the importance of story.

On Saturday 20th January , (10am – 1pm), we will look at the fact that a good story holds key components. We will unlock what they are and consider how we can learn to tell good stories that help to develop our presentations key messages.

We will learn how to create a story based talk – a presentation that will keep an audience engaged from beginning to end.

And finally, for those who work for charities we will spend some time looking at how to invite our listeners to ‘step into the story’ we have been presenting. How to ‘ask’ them to be involved in the organisation we represent.

 On Saturday 27th January, (10am – 4pm) each participant, taking on board the previous Saturday’s training, will present a 15 minute talk that represents the charity, organisation or church that they work or volunteer for. The aim of this day is to leave with a finely - honed presentation that will be a good template for future talks. You will also leave with the confidence that you know how to speak so that others will listen!

I have 10 spaces available for this training. The cost for the whole course is £275. If you are a volunteer speaker for an organisation and funding the training yourself I would be happy to offer a discount of £50. Also, if you are a student I would be delighted to offer a further discount and if you are unwaged seeking employment, I can offer at least one free space per course.

If you would like to take part, please e-mail me at jenny@jennifercornfield.com. If for any reasons you cannot make one of the dates above an alternative day could be provided in the week. Also, if weekends are a problem I can organise mid-week training sessions or sessions that are bespoke to your team or staff group.

(Description of Bryan Stevenson taken from Talk like Ted by Carmine Gallo)


Friday, 12 February 2016

Faithful Lives (Lent 2)

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 1Samuel 1:1

I write this with a wry smile. It can only be me who fails before I even begin. My wanting to blog a little each day through Lent about the story of Hannah hit an obstacle on Wednesday and then again Thursday when the time I had allotted to write in amongst busy days, was taken by phonecalls, that lasted hours rather than minutes, that I wasn’t expecting and that I couldn’t ignore.

On the 6th January as I took down all the decorations of Christmas, I posted a photo on Instagram of the star that was hanging in my kitchen window. Alongside the photograph I wrote the following words of Ann Voskamp:

And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands. There is no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends you. A Christian never stops living Christmas…when you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone. When you get Christmas, people get hope from you.

That momentary Instagram shot and its accompanying words have taken on a deeper meaning to me over these first few weeks of a new year.  My life (our life as a family) is– for the moment – one that unexpectedly finds itself at the mercy of long, un-diary-ed phone conversations; meetings that go on far longer than their allotted times and days that hold situations and conversations that I wasn’t expecting to be having when I began 2016. The words of Ann Voskamp and a small placard, placed in our window represent a privilege and a challenge that we are trying to live up to.

As our thoughts of Christmas, seem so quickly this year, to turn to Easter, I have found the story of Hannah and her family pertinently challenging. Hannah’s story opens up for the reader the books of Samuel. In the Hebrew Bible the books of Samuel come after ‘Judges’ (in our English Bibles, they come after ‘Ruth’.) We know of the book of Judges that it tells the stories of Israel when there was no king and everyone did as they liked. (Judges 21:25). Into this setting comes Hannah and her husband Elkanah. Immediately the narrative makes it clear that they are righteous people. Elkanah is a righteous man, whose heritage is strong. They are good people living in difficult times. Uncompromisingly faithful to God. They stand in contrast to the priest Eli, who initially in Hannah’s story does not recognise a God depending and God seeking woman.

The opening words of 1 Samuel 1, are meant to encourage. With the privilege of hindsight, we can recognise that we are being alerted to the fact that something significant is about to take place with the appearance of Elkanah and Hannah and eventually their son, Samuel. The writer tells us by the way that he constructs his narrative that with the appearance of these godly people, there is hope. Samuel will bring the leadership that the nation of Israel is needing but he will born out of a family that has daily lived lives of quiet devotion and steadfast faithfulness. Salt and light people – if you like.

For me, living in the days that we as a nation find ourselves, I am convinced by the Elkananh’s and Hannah’s, that we need godly people, ‘Christians faithful to God’s word, living devout and godly lifestyles over the long duration in order to reform church and nation.’ [1] Social Change is always something on my heart, and I think that the Bible illustrates that this sort of transformation takes place when individual Christians live lives that – often quiet in their faithfulness – swell to contribute a significant influence on our culture and society.

Last night in a church in Glasgow, my friend Tara Devlin and I, along with the exceptionally beautiful music of our friends Yvonne and David Lyon, had the privilege of sharing the story of Christians in Nepal who are literally standing in the way of child traffickers who are emptying villages of their girls. It will be the last time we tell their story as part of a tour that Tearfund Scotland have been running called, ‘Where Children Sleep’, but their story will live on. Every life they save, every family they keep together, every child they instil with the weight of their worth, will be a story that will last for eternity.

 In the foothills of the Himalaya’s in Nepal, the Kingdom of God is being built faithfully and quietly by godly people who are addressing the needs of their community. This Lent, I am thinking of how in my city, in my part of the world, I live a life that in some way does the same. How will my city, as Yvonne Lyon sang last night, ‘feel the light.’?

[1] Arnold. T 1 and 2 Samuel (NIV Application Commentary)


Monday, 8 February 2016

For Lent

I have never given anything up for Lent. I think that it is the Baptist in me that -even though I have been part of the Anglican church now for twenty years - raises its head snootily and looks down its nose at the declarations of giving up chocolate and puddings, crisps and wine – usually for the reason of losing a bit of weight. ‘Humph’, I think in self -righteous, judgmentalism, ‘That’s not what Lent is about!’ (Disclaimer: I recognise most Baptists would not be as sanctimonious as me! They have not trod the paths of Free Evangelicalism quite as strictly as I did!)

This year, I thought I would take my unattractive self-righteousness and participate a little more graciously with the lessons a time of Lent can offer. Because I actually love this time. I realised a number of years ago that there was something in times of waiting that I found profoundly helpful. Maybe, it’s because I know at Advent that Christmas will come and I know at Lent that Easter morning will rise, the waiting feels easier? Maybe, I am not as good at waiting as I think?

This year I thought I would ‘take something up’ and so have decided to blog through the story of a woman who really knew what it was to wait. A woman who didn't have the assurance that her time of waiting would result in an Easter Sunday but a woman who allowed her lengthy time of waiting, in all its utter painfulness, to drive her to God rather than away from him.

I am going to do something unusual for me. Even if I don’t think the words are quite right or that enough time has been spent on getting my thoughts together, I am just going to put up – each day – the thoughts that I have. Sometimes there will be a proper blog post, other times maybe just a couple of sentences or a quote. 

Yesterday, as I was at my church preaching on the story of Hannah for our current series on ‘Prayer’, I was finding it hard to hold back my tears. As I looked out on the people who I have the privilege to be family with, I sensed the relevance of her story to their stories and I was also aware that the words I had to share only scratched the surface of this inspirational woman.  I am not a natural preacher. I hear the Holy Spirit whisper and I stick relentlessly to my script!  I always carry the words I don’t say as much as the words that I do speak out. And those unspoken words are often the ones that I wished I had given voice. I think this is what many preachers find. Monday morning is always the time when you see the sermon that you had to preach with the most clarity! As I was preparing to talk about Hannah, her life spoke to me very deeply. I often find that with the stories of the women in the Bible. They resonate more. Not just because I am a woman but maybe because they just seem a little more relevant, more real. They deal with the things of life. The messy stuff. The things that hurt. They are distinctly human, firmly in the everyday.

In his introduction to the books of Samuel, Eugene Peterson, says in The Message Bible of Hannah (and the other three main characters that the books of Samuel focuses on):  ‘…we need to be reminded that these stories are not exemplary in the sense that we stand back and admire, like statues in a gallery, knowing all the while that we will never be able to live either that gloriously or tragically ourselves. Rather they are immersions into the actual business of living itself: this is what it means to be human.’

This Lent I want to consider what it is to be human and in considering this, by looking at the life of Hannah, recognise that she constantly tells us that God is with us every step of the way. I want Hannah to lead me to the foot of a cross and an empty tomb. I want the prayer of her life to remind me again of a Saviour who sees, who loves; who knows; who saves. I think she can. So, if you would like to join me. I would love the company. 


Saturday, 24 October 2015

'How to Speak so that People Listen'

I have a couple of spaces still available on my two day speaker training workshop: ‘How to Speak so that People Listen.’  18th & 19th November 2015. 

 I come with twelve years’ experience of working within the Charity sector and recruiting significant support to two major charities as a supporter facing communicator and speaker trainer of communicators.

A great believer in John F Kennedy’s words: ‘The only reason to give a speech is to change the world’ the two day course will help you to discover some of the absolutely key features of a presentation that will inspire world’s to change and will encourage your listener to step into the story that you are telling.

If you work in the charity sector or for a church – especially in the area of social justice – this course would be especially applicable to you.

If you are a leader – in the charity sector, business world or church – this course will open up the fact that storytelling is a critical leadership skill if you want to communicate, lead and inspire with greater impact and conviction.

On Day One we will look at what the components are that make the perfect presentation. In order to open this up we will look at the fact that ‘We need to talk about Injustice.’

-We will open up the fact that authenticity and vulnerability are key traits of the effective communicator and we look at what it means in practice to present yourself effectively and honestly in order to engage your audience.

-We will spend some time focusing on the personal stories we carry that will be important to hold in focus when we present a talk to others. 

-We will learn that the word ‘WHY’ is actually a starting place when we want to inspire others support and engagement, not manipulate. The missing factor in most ineffective communication is humanity.

-The use of story will be a dominant theme throughout the day. We will discover that story is the medium that our brains respond to. If we want people to listen to us – to really hear – we need to understand the importance of story.

-A good story holds key components. We will look at what they are and consider how we can use story to help develop our key messages.

-We will learn how to create a story based talk – a presentation that will keep an audience engaged from start to end.

-And finally we will spend some time looking at how to invite our listeners to ‘step into the story’ we have been presenting. How to ‘ask’ them to be involved in the organisation we represent.

On Day Two each participant, taking on board the training of Day One, will present a twenty minute talk that represents the organisation, church or charity that they work or volunteer for.

If you would like take part in this training – then please contact me at jenny@jennifercornfield.com

For this time only – I am offering the course at the reduced rate of £175 (normally £300) because I would like to use the participants of this course as a focus group for future courses that I have planned.

I train regularly for organisations and charities. Here are a few nice things people have said about the experience!

‘We were so inspired…never been so moved and enthused. You gave us so much help.’ – Healthlink 360

‘That was an absolute masterclass.’ – Volunteer Speaker for Tearfund Wales

‘Jen, was in the words of Bill and Ted, most excellent!’ Volunteer Speaker for Tearfund Wales


Friday, 23 October 2015

A Shameless Sales Pitch

                                  'To be a person is to have a story to tell.' - Isak Dinesen

Today, found me waiting at a bus stop, at the top of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, bag of chips in hand, looking suitably classy.

It was about 8pm and I had just attended a workshop on the' Power of Story Telling' run by the Health and Social Care Academy. I was unashamedly  interested to see the way in which someone else went about teaching on this subject, as it is a significant part of the training I give to communicators when teaching them how to speak so that people will listen.

The speaker was a woman called Marie Ennis-O'Connor. She had entered the world of storytelling via a blog after recovering from breast cancer and finding all that she had experienced something that she needed to process.

          'Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories &         compassion.' - Barry Lopez

I found the audience who were gathered to hear her, fascinating. Most of them were there because they worked in the health service and spent much of their working lives telling people's stories in order that they may receive better health care. I was especially intrigued by one woman from whom I got the impression worked with people who lived on some of the toughest estates in Glasgow. She spoke of how - for these people - on hearing stories and statistics of their mortality expectations and their poverty in the media felt exceptionally dis-empowered and discouraged by the reporting of their lives - their stories. They didn't want to live the story being told about them.

They wanted to be told a new story.
They wanted their stories to be told in a new way.
They wanted to tell their stories.

As someone who has spent much of her working life telling the stories of other people's lives, I found these words thought-provoking.

                                                         'Stories are just data with a soul.' - Brene Brown

I was deeply moved by the words of another woman who was obviously struggling under the weight of her own story. She spoke of how she was writing her story of medical misdiagnosis into a book that was "actually quite funny". The way though, that she was telling her story, made it clear to those of us listening that her experiences had been far from funny.

The room seemed to hold the tension of many unspoken stories within an audience who - if there had been time and space - would have begun to share candidly and vulnerably about their work, their passions and their story.

The speaker was good. I felt reassured by her training as quote after quote that she used came from the books and people who had helped me to form my storytelling journey. I was encouraged to hear her talk about the importance of vulnerability; being prepared to share your own story as well as hearing her extol the fact that story telling is actually in our DNA, it is the medium to which our brains are biologically tuned to respond. Stories help us to create connections with others and stories stir our emotions (and the chemicals in our brains) in such a way that those listening will want to step into the stories we are telling. Basically, stories stir a listener into action if we are telling our stories well.

For charities, for those in leadership positions wishing to inspire staff and for those with a product to sell, this is a really important piece of information.

                                            'Stories put all the key facts into an emotional context.' - Robert Rosen

As the workshop came to a close the speaker apologised for what must have been the fourth or fifth time for the fact that her Powerpoint presentation hadn't worked well.

She didn't need to apologise.
Often it is better not to apologise.
 It makes your audience uncomfortable.

I wanted to reassure her that we had heard what she wanted to say and so I spoke out into the room about the fact that what people respond to, when faced with an authentic speaker is the fact that they have discovered that they believe what the speaker believes (Simon Sinek talks about this as their 'Why'). The speaker had shared extremely vulnerably about her story of breast cancer, chemotherapy and her resulting infertility. She told us that she had always wanted to be a mother and of how cancer had taken that potential story from her and so she had determined to write a new story. As an audience we warmed to her and we believed her when she talked of the power of story because we had been inspired by her story and had seen in her an authenticity and integrity that was compelling.

    'The power of WHY is not opinion, it's biology...people don't buy WHAY you do, they buy WHY you do it.' - Simon Sinek

I shouldn't have spoken out into that room this evening though. For some reason, I qualified my comment about people connecting to the speaker's beliefs with the information that I worked with charities helping them to train their communicators! I explained that the use of story was key to my training. It sounded like I was making a sales pitch! The last thing that I had wanted to do was to tout my wares at a workshop that had generously been put on for free with a speaker of high calibre, who was gracious enough to thank me for my unwarranted comment!! I may have slightly overused exclamation marks in this paragraph!

And so, after beating a hasty exit at the end of the workshop in order to assure that my touting for business was unintentional (!), I decided that a bag of chips was in order to restore my equilibrium. I feel Brene Brown would have approved. There is something about the great British chip that makes one rise again - strong! And arming my self with the vocabulary of the said Brene Brown, I now make a 'shameless' sales pitch:

                                            'The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.' - John F Kennedy

On the 18th and 19th November I am holding a two day speaker training course: 'How to Speak so that People will Listen.' This is a one off course. One off - in the sense - that it is heavily discounted as I would like to have just a small group of people involved who I can use as a sort of 'focus' group in regards to giving me feedback and quotes for future courses that I will be running. Normally a two day course would cost £300. This course will be just £175 and all refreshments, lunch and resources will be provided.

 The first day of training will look at:

1. What would be considered a 'perfect' presentation?
2. Authenticity and Vulnerability: presenting yourself in order to effectively engage your audience.
3. Always start with WHY when wanting to inspire.
4. The Campfire - the importance of our personal stories.
5. Story as biology - part of our DNA.
6. How to create a good story.
7. Understanding & developing your key messages.
8.. How to construct a story-based presentation.
9. Inviting people to 'step into the story' - making an 'ask'.

The second day of training will involve each person taking on board the training of day one and presenting a twenty minute talk that represents the organisation, church or charity that they work or volunteer for.

I have 3 spaces still available on this course. If you think that you might be interested - please get in touch and I will send you the full programme and more information. The delegates signed up so far for the course are people involved in the area of social justice. My email address is jenny@jennifercornfield.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

(You might like to know that people have said some nice things about my training. With these quotes, I hereby end my plug of the shameless variety)

        'We were so inspired...never been so moved and enthused.  You gave us so much help' -                                                                                                                                                         Healthlink 360

      'Jen, was in the words of Bill and Ted, most excellent.' Volunteer Speaker for Tearfund Wales

                 'That was an absolute master class.' - Volunteer Speaker for Tearfund Wales


Monday, 17 August 2015


I have just begun to read a New York Times book club recommendation, The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits. Her prose is beautiful. Remembering the diaries she kept as a child, and re-reading them with interest in order to discover some early evidence of the person (and writer) she’d since become, she is somewhat horrified to find that the diaries revealed her ‘to possess the mind of a paranoid tax auditor.’

 Like many of the diaries I am sure most of us kept as a child the entries all began with ‘Today’ and then went on to list all the things that her day had held: ‘Today I went to school’. ‘Today, I went to Andrea’s house.’ ‘Today, I did nothing.’ Julavits writes amusingly of how she, ‘exhibited no imagination, no trace of style, no wit, no personality. Each entry is an accounting of (or an expressed anxiety about ) my school performance.’

In the The Folded Clock, Julavits writes in diary form a (according to the blurb on the back of the book!) ‘…meditation of time and self, youth and aging, betrayal and loyalty, friendship and romance, faith and fate, marriage and family, desire and death, gossip and secrets, art and ambition.’ I am only on page 16 and so do not feel equipped to write with authority as to the books content, but I am liking, already the fact that she starts every diary entry with the word that dominated her childhood journals, ‘Today.’ Unashamedly, I decided to copy her. The only similarity between my ‘today’ and hers though, is simply the word.

Today, the summer ended and three children returned to school. Enthusiasm was not high but at least for this one day they all looked smart. Today, I forgot to take photos of them looking smart.

Today I made healthy smoothies for breakfast. Today, I felt like a good mother even though only one child drank them. The others ate pop tarts. Today, I am not going to worry about pop tarts.

Today, for the first time in 13 weeks a whole day stretched in front of me which I could use simply for work. Today I went for a manicure this morning and met a friend for lunch.

Today I made a coffee shop my office. Today I climbed a mountain of emails, texts, Facebook messages, direct tweets. Today I felt like a Munro bagger.

Today I enjoyed the sunshine and took a long, slow walk through the streets I call ‘home’. Today I decided that when one lives in Scotland you should always take ‘sun days’ not ‘snow days.’

Today, I picked myself up and dusted myself down. Today, I recognised that I might have to leave some of the dusting down until tomorrow. Today I picked myself up.

Today I wrote some words when I had no words. Today I wrote because I have something to say.

Today I noticed that when you fall you still move forward. Today I fell forward.  

What did you do today?

© Jennifer Cornfield. All rights reserved.