At Canary Coaching we often support clients on goals, from setting realistic ones, to putting in milestones, to achievement…and setbacks.

I am always looking for strategies that successful achievers have, which I can share with those experiencing setbacks. Most recently I asked a previous client who had lost half of his body weight over the past two and a half years, going from morbidly obese to a healthy BMI, “what advice would you give other people attempting to achieve that goal?”

His answer was a brilliant, easy to share strategy for setbacks. He explained that he still ‘fell off the wagon’ having the odd binge, but instead of thinking ‘I’ve ruined it now, there’s no point’, and giving up (and worse, punishing himself for doing so), he decided to get back on the wagon the next day. Simple.

He concluded by saying that the cumulative effect of all the days ‘on the wagon’ far outweighed the setbacks, and therefore no binge, or break in training is worth deleting the goal for. He is happier now than I have ever seen him.I love this outlook and have talked it through with clients who have a variety of goals, be it to ignore social media during working hours, run the marathon or do internet dating. Initially we talked about going to bed being the ‘re-set’, to ‘start-again’ the next morning. But then I brought it forward, what if you ‘re-set’ straight after the set-back?

Food for thought…

If you’ve got a goal that you’d like some coaching and support with in order to achieve, contact us.

CONTACT US> season is coming up again and consequently I'm coaching a couple of lovely best men. They have both come to me with similar concerns, particularly with regard to the delivery of the speech so I thought it might be useful to have a blog post with some key points.

When writing your speech, having a good structure is key. This will help you remember it, and also help to make the audience feel save in our hands. 

I would recommend having an intro covering the key things - how beautiful the bride is looking, thank yous to the family etc. Following that have three short stories with a beginning sentence, a description in the middle, and a summary or link to the next passage at the end. Finally the summing up and the toast.

Remembering it!

The good thing is, no one will expect you to remember the whole thing. Most speech-makers at weddings either have the whole thing typed out, or prompt cards.

I would recommend having prompt cards - just the key points you need to hit on a card, so that if you lose your way, it's easy to get back on track. If you follow the structure suggested above, you'd have the top line summary of the intro, three key stories, and the summary written on the card.

How  to Practice
Preparation is key, however going over the speech in the same way, over and over again, is likely to make it boring to you, as well as the audience.

Here's some top tips for practicing:
- First, mark in your breaths. Put
little ticks on the copy all the way through, when you're going to breathe -
then have a read and see if that works for you. If you need more, then add

- Second, practice it like a primary school teacher! One of the most common problems with first time public speakers, is that their voices can get stuck in a 'pattern' - this can, on occasion, be hypnotic and send the audience into a trance! To avoid this, practice the speech as if you were a primary school teacher or CBBC presenter - this will make you vary your vocal tone in a new way. You don't have to stick with this, but it will help you engage your vocal range.

- Third, play with pace. As well as a 'tonal rut', new public speakers can also get stuck in a 'pace rut'. Decide which exciting parts of your speech could do with building in pace, and which parts are serious and require....more....weight.

- Fourth,
play with character. If each of your paragraphs were a character, who would they be? The wise old owl giving sage advice to the groom, the cocky successful best mate, or the bookish led-astray friend of the trouble-seeking groom? Each section can be different and thinking about this will add an element of fun and keep the audience engaged.

- Practice. Once you've thought about all of these things, it's time to practice. Do one paragraph per day and once you've been through them, practice one link between paragraphs per day. You'll soon have it licked!

- Record it. It's always a good idea to record yourself doing your speech - this will tell you whether you're rushing, skipping over words, or whether the pace needs changing a bit.

Inform Yourself
If you can visit the venue or look at it online, do. That way you'll be able to visualise yourself delivering your speech in the space, as well as know roughly where the bride and groom, and anyone else you might refer to, will be sitting.

It's not about you!
This is actually quite a nice way to think about it. Take responsibility for communicating your message to the audience and giving them a nice time. People want to be there and to hear what you've got to say, so just go for it!

Sometimes a coaching session or two can really help you to nail your speech and feel confident on the day. If you'd like to book in, just click here and contact us.
What is 'Attaching Meaning'?

‘Attaching meaning’ or in strict NLP circles ‘complex equivalence’ is a common thinking pattern a lot of us fall into. In essence it is ‘this means that’ for example ‘he crossed his arms -that means he doesn’t like me’ or ‘she texted back immediately - that means she’s super keen” etc.

OK…and what’s wrong with doing that?!

Well…if you fall into a pattern of it, it can lead to confusion and disappointment. You’re not always going to be right – folding arms can be because someone is cold, and texting back might just spell efficiency…or a hundred other things. Imagine how many conversations have gone on in order to attach meaning to the frequency or speed of return texts?!

For performers this attached meaning is a common trap. They are regularly put up against a panel from whom they get no verbal feedback – only the twitch of a pencil or the raising of an eyebrow. What does this mean?! Have I got the job?

This week we ran a competition for our audition workshop and the entrants were requested to send us their worst audition ever story. The results were astonishing – we had casting directors asking their dogs what they thought, co-performers who brought their own whips(!) and a lot of performers who had all but been given the job by casting directors only to hear nothing. Imagine attaching a meaning to all of that – ‘the dog didn’t seem to like me, I’ll probably never work again’, ‘I really thought the whipping worked in my favour, the casting director was scribbling away’ etc.! This searching for meaning can either end in disappointment, a knock to the confidence or at best a wasted week of worrying. 


Oh dear…I attach meaning all the time….what should I do?
  • The first step is to notice it – and having read this, you probably will.
  • Then question it – does this really mean that? Or am I guessing? What else could be? And how valuable is guessing?
  • Then forget it. Find something else to do that isn’t deciding what things mean. 
  • There is one alternative…and this might be dangerous (but can definitely highlight how wrong you might have got your attached meaning)…ask them! Can I have some feedback (because I really thought it was in the bag because you smiled at me when I came in and when I left?). 
  • There can be a hundred reasons for not getting a job, and many of them are completely out of your control. What’s great is when you know you’ve done a good job, and that’s all that matters.

If you'd like to find out more, I am running a one day workshop for performers called 'SMASH IT" with another Canary Coach and Director, Tim O'Hara.

For more details see:


The breaks come when Luck allows you to put your indisputably talented self in the right place, at the right time and in front of the right person. And to give yourself a better chance of achieving this you need contacts – Hugh Bonneville....I don't disagree with this, but, as with improv, I tend to agree, and ADD.

Surely talent and contacts are enough?
Regardless of your talent and your contacts, if you only have the ability to nail your performance some of the time, then your career is likely to be a bit hit and miss.

We all have off days, bad hair days, scratchy throat days, bad mood days etc., but the panel, or the audience don't want to know. Don't care even. If it's the first time you've met them and you give an 'off' performance, they may not call you back. I know a high ranking casting director in the West End who has a blacklist - she very rarely calls people more than once.

I work with performers a lot, and these are some things I regularly hear:
  • “I was the last auditionee of the day - didn't stand a chance”
  • “I heard the guy before me smash it, I just went in and crumbled”
  • “They kept me waiting for 2 hours – I was in a complete state when I went in”
  • “I know the casting director hates me - what's the point”
  • “I only ever get the jobs I don't really want”
  • “I hit all the notes at home, but in the audition they wouldn’t come out”
  • “I learned the whole speech really well but the words just went”
  • ETC...ETC...ETC...

SO what can we do about it?
Well you have regular coaching for your voice, or your acting, but what about your mind?

In NLP we believe that if you can do something once, you can model it - you can work out what it is you do, and do it EVERY time. 

Further we have techniques to back this model up. In the same way that whatever time of the day or night it is, if your favourite tune is played, you can feel on top of the world - you can programme helpful feelings to happen when you step into any audition room.
As a director and writer I have been on the other (easier) side of the casting desk for many an audition, good and bad. This has helped me to realise the importance of different perspectives. We work a lot on this in NLP - putting yourself in the shoes of the casting director, in that room, at that time and finding out what they want to see and hear, and then making yourself responsible for giving it to them. This kind of knowledge is power. And in an industry this competitive, you need all the help you can get!

So an adaptation on Hugh’s wise words - 'The breaks come when Luck allows you to put your indisputably talented self in the right place, at the right time and in front of the right person. And to give yourself a better chance of achieving this you need contacts...AND an ability to SMASH IT EVERY TIME!’

I am running a one day workshop called 'SMASH IT" with another Canary Coach and Director, Tim O'Hara, which covers these topics in detail enabling you to put it all into practice.

For more details see:

Having worked as a musical theatre performer, and as a director/writer, I have experience of being both in front of, and behind the auditioning table. 

Why is it that some people are able to come in, regardless of the time of day, who is in the panel and who went in before them, and give the same performance they gave in front of their mirror, whereas others, regardless of talent, fail at the first hurdle?

If you’re one of the ones who sometimes nails it, and sometimes doesn’t - what factors are present when you don’t achieve? My guess would be that they are mainly mental ones. You still have the same amount of talent you had when you were at home, so why can’t you pull it out of the bag?

Thought Spiral
In NLP there is an understanding that your thoughts control your emotions and the knock on effect of that is that your emotions control your performance. The performers who nail it every time, are in full control of their thinking. So all you have to do is control your thoughts. Easier said than done? It might take a bit of practice, but not really.

The moment that seed of doubt enters your mind – ‘it’s not my day, she was way better than me...there’s no point even trying....’, a chain reaction is set off, your thoughts spiral into the realms of self-doubt and there is no way  you are going to go in there and give them  your best self. 

When I work with performers I work on dealing with this self talk which can spiral downwards and creating positive versions of these ‘triggers’. You know when your favourite song comes on and you feel on top of the world, regardless of where you are – that’s the sort of thing you can put in place so you can march in there with your head held high.

The Panel
One of the things performers do on a regular basis is second guess the audition panel – this becomes part of the thought spiral. Something I coach my clients to do is come to the realisation that there is nothing they can do about the panel. If they are going to go with people they have used before who are way less talented, or talk rudely through your audition, or make you sing for a part that is completely inappropriate whilst lying on your back and pretending to be a baby, there is nothing you can do about it. You can decide 

that the profession is not for you and leave. Or save the story for your autobiography and get on with it. Your one and only aim is to go in there, and present the best version of yourself. If they don’t hire you this time, at least they will still see you next time.  

Finally, many of the performers I work with are surprised by the amount of preparation those who nail it actually do - they may say otherwise due to the fierceness of competition – but performers are like athletes – regular training is essential. I regularly work with clients on tools for avoiding procrastination - a skilled form of self-sabotage.

 Top Tips
  • Prepare properly – know that you have done everything in your power before you go into the audition to prevent the thought spiral beginning with ‘I should have done more’.
  • Avoid procrastination – work out whether it’s the carrot (the chance of getting the job) or the stick (the chance of being blacklisted by the casting director) that motivates you. Use that as a motivator.
  • Set a goal for the audition that is self-achievable, that way you can’t beat yourself up afterwards. The goal is not to get the job, but to give the best account of yourself possible.
  • Look at it from the panel’s point of view. I have been there. It is the best thing in the world when at five o’clock after a full day, someone comes in and makes the panel smile.
  • Remember why you’re there in the first place. You’ve said a big ‘no’ to a desk job because performance is in your veins, you thrive off of having an audience. Go in there and thrive! 

I regularly coach actors and comics one on one, and also run group workshops, so please get in touch if you are interested (there is an equity discount!).