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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Russell Pickering talks about Step into the Spotlight

Russell Pickering, founder of The Pickering Group, is one of New Zealand’s leading specialists in effective communication, business storytelling and presentation training. His new book, Step Into the Spotlight is out now, RRP: $35.00.

Can you tell us a little about the new book?

The communication and execution of good ideas drives organisations and businesses forward. Step Into the Spotlight gives people a practical methodology to make sure that their great ideas get heard, resonate with their audience and create change.

Ideas are valuable, yet we see far too many great ideas fail to connect, and promising careers stall, because of poor presentation skills. We all want our ideas to land. Many people believe that what they do at work doesn’t count as presenting – but all of us are influencing and inspiring others with our thinking. Many also believe that they can’t learn to be a better presenter. But you can. And you must. We need more people with ideas of value to speak up.

What inspired you to write the book?

The idea that gets me out of bed in the morning – my underlying “why” – is the need to tilt the balance of ideas towards those of value. Far too many great ideas fail to get resonance, while terrible ones are taken up and given too much of a voice. It comes down to confidence and presence. We have a bias towards displays of confidence, so what I wanted to do in the book was give people the tools to communicate well – to get out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Ideally, I want this book to be of service. I think of myself as a script editor, acting coach and director for businesspeople, all rolled into one. In ensuring that ideas of value are communicated well and heard, I’m helping those who have something worth saying to change the world.

How difficult was it writing Step Into The Spotlight?

Writing the book was definitely challenging, but it wasn’t a struggle to capture the IP – it was the discipline required to get the words down. That was a slog some days, but I kept going. At the end, I almost couldn’t stand the sight of it and when I first received printed copies of the book, I couldn’t bring myself to open it, but we’re slowly becoming friends now.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I started with a white paper that I wrote first, which gave me some of what I then developed further. That document broke the back of the big idea and the models, so my process was about filling that out to a full book.

In terms of process, six days a week I was committed to writing 750 words and I wouldn’t leave my desk until I’d done that. Some days that took me all of about 20 minutes. Other days it would take me three hours. (I’m a slow writer and fall hopelessly into the trap of editing as I go and wanting to get it down perfectly.)

If a soundtrack was made to accompany the new book, name a song or two you would include.

If I could sum up the book in a song, it would be “Diamonds” by Rihanna. Shining like a diamond is akin to stepping into the spotlight.

What did you enjoy the most about writing Step Into The Spotlight?

I’m not sure if I would say I enjoyed it, but what I found valuable was the opportunity to fine-tune my thinking, as well as creating new things, like the courage model that’s included in the book.

It was also rewarding to know that I can actually do this – see it through. And I do hope the process is easier next time; I’ve certainly got some learnings that I have banked.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Honestly, I didn’t do anything – it always seemed like there was the next step in the saga to do: design, or marketing the book. Sending it off to the typesetter was definitely a big moment though.

…Perhaps I do still need a celebration!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Jimmy Cornell’s World Voyage Planner. Sailing is a new passion, and this truly is an amazing book. It gives you all the different pathways around the world that you could take for an adventure – the weather patterns you might expect, what you could encounter, best times of years to pass through certain waters. It’s fascinating.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

It’s about making sure that I can make the impact that I want to with the book – that it starts helping us address the balance of ideas. I’ve got some ideas already for other formats I can use to allow these tools to reach even more great thinkers and nudge them towards great speaking. From there, the sky’s the limit really. I feel like I’ve got another book or two in me – and following what I’ve just been reading I may have some rough plans for a sea-battical in a few years’ time. I’m looking forward to a chance to collect some more stories.

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