Let’s Kiss More: Here’s Why & How

“Today I’m going to teach you to kiss. At work. On TV. In life or death situations. I’m going to show you how. And then when we go our separate ways you’re going to kiss with other people more than you’ve ever done before!.

If anyone was getting excited that this is a session in making out, apologies. Today is strictly business.

The purpose of the TED Talks you’re hearing today is to present ideas worth spreading… using your mouth, and your words to inspire others. This relies on an ability to be understood and engage others to keep the conversation going.

There is currently a void of understanding about the world of finance and I challenge you to fill it by being understandable. Instead of using your words to build barriers to hide behind, use them to build bridges between people.

So let’s begin by introducing myself. These are a handful of things people say about me:

–        Among the ‘savviest’ on Wall Street by the Wall Street Journal

–        Voted the most popular businesswoman on Twitter

–        Advisor to company Boards, a Quantum Physicist by training..

–        As a TV personality I am looked to for “clarifying complex conditions as they unfold”

I am all these things but it wasn’t always so. I’d like to help you be as effective as you can, by learning from my mistakes and how I turned things around…

Let’s go back to when I first went on television 5 years ago.

–        I spent weeks preparing. I read report after report… On many different economies, asset classes and from different investment houses.. My desk looked like I was building a fort, covered as high as it was in paper. I compiled pages of notes which I took eagerly to the studio.

–        I was on for a good half hour tackling a whole manner of issues..

–        I spoke about “QE, GDP growth, recent PMIs..”. I threw in lots of impressive phrases “cyclical and structural issues, funds looking top down and bottom up”

–        I came off set pretty pleased with myself.

–        The next day I posted the clip on facebook, twitter and linkedin and waited for the responses to come flooding in… And I waited… And I waited

–        And the best response I got was from my mother saying… ‘oh your hair looked nice”! Seriously, all that work and I could have just gone to the hairdressers!

What was I doing wrong? It was all about me.

–        I was looking to “prove myself”.

–        I felt insecure in my ability: I was nervous. I was intimidated.

–        So I hid behind language that would make me sound like I fitted in.

–        Subconsciously I didn’t want to be clear. If I was clear, it would open up my arguments for criticism and I feared I’d be exposed as a fraud and underserving of my place on TV.

So I hid behind acronyms and vague overused business terms.. and it was all a waste of time

Let’s now compare that to yesterday, my latest television appearance.

–        I was given the topic merely hours before I went on

–        My notes fitted onto half a page of A4

–        And I was on for < 5 minutes, but this is what I did with the knowledge and time I had:

–        I answered the question: What did I think about investors investing heavily in Emerging Markets with the reply… “when you’re chasing a speeding car, you need to travel faster to catch up”, I continued “many investors are looking to capture a market return that is running away from them and Emerging Markets offer the possibility of magnified returns… but also magnified risks… beware, and don’t invest indifferently across vastly varying markets”

–        And as I walked off set after that brief appearance, cut short by breaking news, the responses were already in. No need for me to post anything myself. People were posting my words already. And debates were waging.

–        I had engaged thousands of people. They were passing on this message to thousands more. They were equipped with knowledge to make smarter investment decisions. And spurred on to dig deeper into the problem to find more solutions for more people…

–        I went out for dinner that night and as I repeated my words to those sitting around the table, non working in finance, they understood and engaged with what I was saying…

–        Best of all.. I’d engaged enough people for my hair to be given its own Twitter account! My mother is still so proud.

I went from spending weeks to just hours preparing, piles of notes to just a page, 30 minutes to 5 minutes to get my point across and from zero to thousands of people engaged

The differences came down to this one simple change: I took my ego out of it.

I started to think less about myself, and more about other people.

What did they want to hear? It was less about breadth and more about depth. Digging deeper into an issue to reveal the what, why and how.

–        What’s really going on? People are investing into the stock markets because they have increased in value and they don’t want to miss out.

–        Why does it matter to my life? Because if you’re doing likewise you could be putting your money at risk.

–        And how can I do something about it? Be more selective in where you invest.

No self-indulgent fancy phrases but tackling the issues that could make a difference to other people’s lives.

And then I asked. How can I say it in a way that is easiest for them to understand? Instead of focusing on sounding smart, empower other people to be smarter.

Analogies are often the most effective way to offer information in a relatable way. Explaining something complicated by using a story of everyday life which mirrors it. It can be a struggle but I get there by continuing to break down the situation until it is in its rawest form – chasing something running away from you, and then ways to relate this to everyday life are clear – be it chasing a car or chasing the footballer with the ball, you have to move faster… A riskier thing to do…

Clear messages are the easiest to pass on, allowing my words to gain momentum and gain traction.

People really listen. They gain a nugget of something they didn’t know before, a strategy to react to it and the opportunity to debate it or pass it on. They no longer feel alienated but empowered.

Alienation is the void that jargon leaves behind. A lack of understanding, missed opportunities and confusion… Whereas empowering them fills the void with knowledge and understanding and separate parties either side of the void to connect

This is important because we in the world of finance are some of the worst culprits. Building barriers to hide behind. Jargon is just a crutch we use when we don’t fully understand a subject, or are deliberately looking to hide the truth. But it isn’t even self-serving – it’s backfiring. It is not offering us support or protection but, shrouded in mystery, we are cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world which only leaves us isolated and open to attack.

Instead  by being clear, we can bring people together.

In today’s market, people who can cut through the noise, drive deeper and help people connect will be the real leaders. That’s the future.

So I challenge you to be understandable.

Think less about yourself and more about other people

What do they want to hear? The what, the why and the how…

–        What’s really going on (dig deeper – be inquisitive),

–        why does it matter (relate this to their lives) and

–        how can we do something about it (offer a solution not just a problem – be thoughtful)

And how can you convey this in a way your audience will understand?

–        Where else is this situation, broken down to its barest form, mirrored in other people’s lives?

Don’t use your words to build barriers to hide behind but bridges to connect people.

Kiss: Keep It Simple Stupid

Thank you”

What do you think? Let’s keep the conversation going – leave a comment below…


  1. Thanks Gemma for sharing your experience. I wonder if the main difference between now and 5 years ago is the fact that we are much more active on Twitter now than then, and also, you have built a strong group of followers.

    Do you think you would have the same kind of impact in your first appearance by only changing your message?

    I believe it’s a matter of perseverance as well. I think there is a feeling that we must succeed fast, but things usually progress slower than expected and it’s a matter of a combination of talent and hard-work.

  2. Could not agree with you more! You clearly command an understanding of social connections and human behaviors as well as quantum physics! “Less is more”; “People remember stories”; Use pictures
    -Humble Follower 😉

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