The Art of Hostage Negotiation – An MYP & CISI event

In all aspects of our professional life, the ability to successfully negotiate is an essential skill. This can be for various reasons, from negotiating with potential clients, to get a pay-rise, or a better deal with a supplier.

Last month, I attended a joint event organised by Merseyside Young Professionals (MYP) and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), called “The Art of Hostage Negotiation”. Delivered by Richard Mullender, a former hostage negotiator and coach, I was looking forward to a fascinating event, with the opportunity to learn from an interesting and experienced coach. As it turned out, I was not disappointed at all by my experience of the event. Indeed it would have been even better if Richard had given a glimpse into his personal background in hostage negotiation, having worked with Scotland Yard and the FBI.

I am very happy to let the above pass, as I learned plenty from this worthwhile investment in my own time and personal development. From the importance of listening properly, talking normally and building trust, Richard spoke with a quiet intensity, authority and humour. This commanded my attention from start to finish, and I also understood Richard’s teachings with a straightforward ease.

In addition, I also learned that professionals sell successfully when working as a team, and not as individuals. Listening to Richard speak about all of the above, I realised and understood that everyone sells every day, by persuading, influencing and motivating.

Other interesting points that I learned included

  1. It is important to understand what motivates potential clients when selling, therefore it is crucial to know their values and beliefs.
  2. When people give their opinion on something, they reveal a lot about themselves.
  3. Rather than asking too many questions, it is better to talk in normal conversation.
  4. Through listening to clients, facts and secrets can be collected from them.
  5. Professionals must always be honest with their clients, as trust is everything!
  6. Clients need to feel comfortable with others, before business relationships can be built and nurtured.

Upon reflection, I enjoyed listening to Richard share his knowledge and expertise. The best compliment I can give is that I have since re-evaluated what I have learned about what is effective communication. For instance when listening, it is less effective to write down notes, as it is important to concentrate on the speaker’s facial movements, emotional expression and tone of voice. Finally I have learned that rather than asking multiple questions, communication needs to be natural.

Professional Liverpool – Networking Evening with Tomas Maunier

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending a networking evening, organised by Professional Liverpool and featuring Tomas Maunier from Fazenda Group. Having previously listened to Tomas speak about Fazenda, it was a pleasure to once again hear him speak about the founding, growth and success of the business.

With an excellent turnout, canapés and networking at the Cotton Exchange, the event began with a warm introduction from John Hall, the Chief Executive of Professional Liverpool. As Tomas took to the stage, a hearty applause marked the beginning of an experience, where I once again listened to Tomas’s personal journey, from his law beginnings, to moving into the hospitality industry in 2010. Listening to Tomas again, I was not to be disappointed, as I absorbed his every word from start to finish.

There was plenty that Tomas covered. From his beginnings as a solicitor, getting involved with marketing and hospitality, to explaining about the importance of having the right people, which was a reoccurring theme. In addition, Tomas also talked about the difficult challenges and setbacks, that had to be overcome, for Fazenda to be successful. An example is that working in hospitality, means the environment is incredibly fast-paced, frantic and constantly demanding, leaving minimal opportunity to stop and reflect. This means surrounding oneself with the right people is important.

Thinking about Tomas’s Fazenda journey, I found it to be an interesting insight into how the hospitality industry works. With so many restaurants competing for trade in Liverpool and other UK cities, customers have so much choice and different tastes, meaning that establishments need to provide the best possible dining experiences. Another aspect to consider is that trends will change as money gets tighter, leading to the dining out bubble bursting. Therefore restaurants will need to innovate and adapt to change, or fall by the wayside.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Alex Clark and Rosie Davis from Professional Liverpool, for putting together a fine evening of networking. I would also like to once again thank Tomas for sharing his incredible story, and providing a glimpse into the blood, sweat and tears required, to be successful in business.

Certainly provided me with food for thought!

Weightmans Wednesday – Mowgli Street Food

Whenever I receive an invitation to a Weightmans event, I always look forward to not only networking, but also listening to the stories of others. I see these as opportunities to learn from speakers and fellow attendees, where personal stories are told, rich in heartfelt tone, humour and experience, lifting the human soul and encouraging a belief that anything is possible. A recent example is my experience of last week’s Weightmans Wednesday event, where I had the pleasure of listening to the excellent Nisha Katona of Mowgli Street Food.

Along with her success as a restaurateur and curry evangelist, Nisha has also written two books called “Pimp my Rice” and “The Spice Tree”, along with writing for newspapers such as the Independent and Telegraph. In addition, Nisha has also appeared on television, and you can also find her on Twitter and YouTube.

The audience and I were wowed by her personal journey, from her beginnings as a barrister for 20 years, to founding Mowgli in 2014, along with its subsequent and successful growth. Nisha also spoke about building Mowgli’s success through the back of social media, in addition to helping others. This included sourcing local suppliers, and working as part of a close-knit and supportive community of residents, fellow restaurant owners and small businesses. Located in the unique and eclectic surroundings of Bold Street, Mowgli is one of Liverpool’s popular dining establishments.

Listening to Nisha, I picked up on her passion for homemade Indian cuisine, and of the pride in her work.  To be successful involves taking risks, thus requiring faith and confidence in yourself and your abilities. Other useful points that I picked up, were the importance of integrity, knowing your strengths, surrounding yourself with good people to delegate, as well as remaining true to yourself and your brand. A final and most important characteristic is the ability to tackle and survive setbacks.

My thanks go to everyone at Weightmans for organising a fine evening. I would also like to personally thank Nisha for sharing her heartfelt story. It was not only inspirational, but also powerful, and her eloquently chosen words contributed to lifting the evening, into the realms of unforgettableness. For me this was one on my favourite ever Weightmans Wednesday events.

To conclude, Nisha’s success shows that you can follow your heart, and pursue your passion for something that is a labour of love.

GDPR – How will it affect businesses?

Data is essential to the daily and future workings of an organisation. With commercially sensitive information held and stored electronically and physically, the loss and theft of stored data carries serious consequences. These include reputational, financial and legal damage, meaning there are significant pressures for all organisations and businesses, to ensure all necessary steps to secure the privacy of data are taken.

Next year, an important new data protection legislation called EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be enforced. GDPR is a uniformed regulatory framework that will be coming into force across the EU and beyond, to define and bring together multiple requirements for securing data, under a single and clearer legislation.

Some important facts related to GDPR are listed below:

  1. The legislation comes into force on 25th May 2018 and replaces the Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC).
  2. GDPR will still apply to the UK even after Brexit, meaning that there will be no opting out!
  3. In the UK, the legislation will supersede the Data Protection Act 1998.
  4. GDPR is a legal compliance issue. Therefore the role of IT is to help and assist organisations, with ensuring they are legally compliant.
  5. Applies to all organisations, business and service providers regardless of geographical location.
  6. The data that is protected under GDPR are any forms of personally identifiable information held, related to EU citizens. This includes names, addresses, medical details, contact numbers and more.
  7. Includes all data held electronically, on paper and in other formats.

As a legal framework, the scope of GDPR is an incredibly large web of complexity. For organisations and businesses, the legislation brings many changes, which will affect how personal data is stored and used. This is through strict new legal requirements, which relate to how they can collect, record, store and process data, in addition to defining what needs to be done to ensure compliance.

These requirements include:

  1. Privacy by design, by reducing data collection and retention, in addition to requiring explicit permission to capture data.
  2. Before processing personal data, organisations must analyse and determine privacy risks through Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA).
  3. An individual has the right for their data to be deleted, as part of their right to be forgotten.
  4. GDPR applies worldwide to anyone who holds personal data on an EU citizen.
  5. In the UK, any data breach must be notified to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within 72 hours.
  6. Infringements of GDPR carry penalties, including fines of up to 4% of an organisation’s total revenue.

In this digital age where political issues such as Brexit have created uncertainty, it is more important than ever, that personal data is stored securely and processed legally. Organisations must take all appropriate steps and measures, to ensure their systems and processes are GDPR compliant. In addition, they will also need to thoroughly check that any business partners and suppliers are also compliant.

To summarise, GDPR is an all-encompassing piece of complex legislation that will transform how personal data can be legally used and processed. Technology will play a major part in assisting all organisational areas are working together to achieve legal compliance, by ensuring GDPR requirements are closely adhered to. Therefore organisations and businesses of all sizes must be aware of the requirements of GDPR, as infringements can damage their brand, both financially and from a reputational perspective.

More information on GDPR is available below:

http://www.itpro.co.uk/it-legislation/27814/what-is-gdpr-everything-you-need-to-know-4

http://www.eugdpr.org/gdpr-faqs.html

https://www.varonis.com/learn/what-is-eu-gdpr/

https://techstringy.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/what-ive-learned-about-gdpr/

North West Data Forum – My Learning Recollections

In today’s digital world, there are so many security risks posed to data. These are not just related to technology, but also to people, markets, skills shortages, resistance to change, organisational culture, and more. This poses a major challenge for organisations, to legally adhere to data protection legislation.

From May next year, the legislative landscape related to protecting data is changing. This is because the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be coming into force. GDPR is a legal regulatory framework, which will apply to all organisations and businesses.

Data security is a keen interest of mine. Recently I attended the North West Data Forum in Liverpool. Organised by Gardner Systems, the forum looked at the imminent introduction of GDPR, as well as how technology can assist organisations with ensuring they are compliant. Having previously written about other Gardner Systems events on data security, I was extremely keen to find out more about GDPR for myself. I am delighted to say that I came away afterwards, feeling the forum to be worthwhile, informal and useful.

The forum consisted of three speakers, followed by a panel discussion. The speakers were Grant Caley from NetApp, John Hughes from Varonis and Paul Stringfellow from Gardner Systems. Each talked about how technology can assist organisations, with ensuring that they can become legally compliant with GDPR. For me personally, there was so much that I learned from all three speakers, from not only securing data, but also how technology can help with complying with legislation.

Below are some of the key points that I learned

  1. Recognise and understand the value of the data you hold.
  2. Challenges posed to data security extend beyond IT (Information Technology).
  3. Less embedded skills within organisations make them more vulnerable.
  4. Data needs to be maintained, transferrable and also made portable.
  5. Explicit permission is required when transferring data.
  6. Technology only helps with ensuring compliance.
  7. Important to think about security when designing and developing solutions.
  8. 70% of security breaches went undetected for a year.
  9. Data access needs to be not only secured, but also monitored and analysed for abnormal behaviour.
  10. Security must work for people, as they use the technologies.
  11. Educate people on general principles on why data security is important.
  12. Important to collaborate with others.

The panel discussion was much thought provoking, with the audience asking pertinent questions related to GDPR. In addition, the discussion also allowed for the audience to submit questions through Twitter. Sensing an opportunity, I submitted a question, asking if GDPR would still apply after Brexit. The response I received was an unequivocal and resounding yes from the panel, in that GDPR will apply to the UK, after the conclusion of Brexit. I learned this is because the legislation will apply to any organisation or business that collects and holds data on EU citizens. Furthermore the panel explained to the audience that my question has constantly been asked by audience members, at other GDPR related forums and seminars. Therefore I was delighted to have asked a meaningful question that is relevant today.

I would like to thank everyone at Gardner Systems and all the speakers, for a very interesting forum. As well as meeting fellow IT professionals, I found the experience to be very educational, and a valuable investment in my own knowledge and understanding, of the importance of data security and GDPR. I was also impressed by the technical insight of Gavin, John and Paul, and I felt privileged to listen and learn from three knowledgeable professionals.

With regards to GDPR, look out for my next article. This is because I shall be writing in more detail about what it is, and how it will affect organisations.

Provoke – An Introduction to Chatbots

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The ever changing world of digital technology brings new possibilities to drive improvements, solve problems and empower customers. An example of this is the growing use of chatbots, to address customer challenges and enhance branding reputations.

Last month, Mando Group in Liverpool hosted one of their Provoke knowledge events, on the subject of chatbots. The purpose of this was to explain about how they can be used by businesses, and of the benefits involved. Working in technology with a deep curiosity to learn how technology trends can be used to help others, I was keen to find more for myself. The event lived up to my expectations, as well as having the opportunity to listen and speak to fellow attendees.

As you begin reading this, I know you are asking yourself the question below:

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to simulate conversation with a person, via auditory or visual medium e.g. the Internet. As I discovered from the event, chatbots are not science-fiction, but a reality, and increasingly becoming commonplace, as part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Examples of chatbots include Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon Alexa. Chatbots are also used by companies such as RBS, CNN, Disney and Domino’s Pizza.

The event consisted of three speakers, who were Jon Seal and Gary Pretty from Mando Group, as well as Alex Fawcett from Sage. Each one gave a brief, but informative insight into how chatbots worked, and how they can be used by businesses. What was pleasing was that Jon, Gary and Alex spoke not only clearly, but demonstrated their technical knowledge concisely in simple terms, with good body language.

I learned plenty of interesting facts from the event. These were related to how chatbots are used, the purpose of them and what needs to be considered when implementing chatbots into a business. As I listened and learned, I could visualise and understand how they can be used, to benefit businesses and organisations.

Some of the facts I learned about chatbots included:

  1. They will be able to serve customers better and simplify communication.
  2. Interaction with a customer is a conversation and not a transaction, meaning they are about emotional and deeper storytelling to engage with customers.
  3. Chatbots are used on multiple-platforms, meaning it is used with social media, devices, apps and other channels.
  4. The purpose of chatbots is to make life easier for people and businesses, by simplifying processes, which helps to drive down operating costs.
  5. Provides 24/7 real-time information to customers, and can also check and retain information learned, though AI.
  6. They do not solve all problems, meaning that a default fall-back position needs to be in place, to allow customers to directly interact with a human advisor.
  7. Employees can use chatbots for better engagement with brands, allowing for improved retention and attraction of talent.

I came away with a clear understanding of what chatbots are, and of the potential they carry. They provide a unique experience in assisting customers with their problems. If they are implemented well, they will be able to successfully interact with customers and employees on a human level, which will positively enhance a brand’s reputation. Implemented poorly, the effect will be the opposite, meaning detailed technical planning, strategy and successful execution is required.

Reflecting on the event, I was taken with the layout of the unique working environment of Mando’s office. I was particularly captivated with The Curious Room, which is a small technology-free room with leather chairs, shelves filled with books and a table with a chessboard, used for brainstorming of ideas. I was even able to sit inside, and I found it to be relaxing, as well as an ideal place to think (just like a conservatory).

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In conclusion, I was deeply interested and impressed by Jon, Gary and Alex’s knowledge. The best compliment I can give, is that I came away educated, having taken a small step into a new and exciting world. Therefore I would like to thank everyone involved.

You can watch the films, and view the slides of the event on Mando’s website.

Ubiquity February Social – Tuesday 7th February 2017

Last Tuesday, I was delighted to attend Ubiquity PR’s February Social event. Held at HOST Restaurant on Hope Street in Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter, this featured guests from different organisations. These included representatives from organisations such as the Morgan Foundation, United Utilities and Liverpool Community Health Trust.

The purpose of the event was to promote All Together Now, which is a charity newspaper for everyone, especially those affected by health and disability. Founded and edited by Tom Dowling, All Together Now commands a readership of 500,000 people, to promote social inclusion for everyone from all walks of life.

When I arrived at the event, my first reaction was seeing through the window, how busy the event looked. As I walked through the door, the atmosphere felt relaxing and informal, setting the tone for a very good evening. Complimented by the fine surroundings of HOST, the event consisted of delicious Pan-Asian canapés, a prize draw and plenty of networking opportunities.

In addition, I also remember vividly Ubiquity’s Joel Jelen speak passionately about raising the profile of All Together Now. I was also delighted to speak to Tom, who was a kind gentleman, with a quiet confidence and dignity.

Since the event, I have read about the origins of All Together Now and I salute Tom’s courage and determination to overcome adversity. To use his personal experience, to help others is an inspiration to many. As a disabled person myself, I can identify with Tom’s passion to help inspire, challenge and change disability attitudes for the better. Therefore I consider it a privilege to write this article, and play my part in helping Tom in his quest, to raise the profile of the charity.

To conclude, I would like to thank Joel and everyone at Ubiquity, as well as HOST and Zut Media, for an excellent evening. I would also like to personally thank Tom for his excellent work, of which I support wholeheartedly.