Its A Kind Of Magic!

Hello! I’m Ricky and I am delighted to announce I am joining the Confident Club as their new CEO! Woohoo! (Chief Encouraging Officer, that is!)

In light of this awesome announcement, I wanted to share a little bit about myself so you can get to know the man behind the glasses! (Not Steve, the other one!)

“I want to help UNLOCK the best version of ourselves and live an extraordinary life, and this is
exactly what makes me excited to work with the Confident Club.”

If you haven’t met me before, I guess I should start by saying that I am a speaker, award-winning magician of The Magic Circle, and host of the Unlocked podcast. I’ve had an interesting adventure with an extensive background in Retail leadership, colleague development & training and over the last 15 years, I’ve been on the front line in one of the UK’s biggest retailers; performing, serving and studying how to UNLOCK the best version of myself, my team and now through my own business, I’m passionate about helping others achieve extraordinary results!

However, if you would have asked me as a child what I wanted to do when I grew up, I couldn’t actually tell you any of this! In fact, I actually left my sixth form college after 1 year of not knowing what to do with my life as I was more interested in earning money to save up for my 1996 P-reg Ford Fiesta! (Stylish, I know!) but it’s an interesting story for another time…

But my adventure into inspiring others & UNLOCKING the best version of ourselves started here. I left sixth form to continue my Saturday job working in one of the busiest UK high street shops, Argos. Over the years I worked my way up the corporate ladder undertaking roles such as team leader, Customer Service Manager, Stock Manager, Regional Development Coach, Store Manager and eventually a National Trainer for the whole of Argos.

(If you’re in the UK, you may have come across one of those shiny new digital Argos stores inside a Sainsbury’s store, if so, it was probably me or one of my team that led the team-building workshops for those stores!)

When I became a National Trainer, it was here that I really developed my passion to improve the confidence of the store teams to be the best version of themselves, create a high performing team culture & deliver a magical customer experience!

Now, you may be thinking where does all the magic come in? Well, the thing I didn’t tell you was that, during this career, I was secretly performing magic and building my business in the staffrooms, team briefings & at team meetings.

My ethos was If I performed magic for my team, they would like me, we’d get on well and everything would be awesome! (In hindsight, this wasn’t a great idea and when I went back to my original store 10 years later as a store manager, I invited a colleague into my office for a chat. They thought they were going to be introduced to a wonderful magic trick, but I was
actually about to hand them their P45!!!!) Oh hindsight, what a wonderful gift you are!

“One of the saddest things in life is to get to the end and look back in regret, knowing that you could have been, done, and had so much more.” Robin Sharma

Anyway, a long story short, I eventually left ARGOS to pursue my dreams of being a full-time professional magician, speaker & trainer and created a fantastic business performing and presenting at weddings and events all across the UK. Later in my business, to fuel my passion of personal improvement, I created a podcast called UNLOCKED to share my adventures. I’m a huge fan of personal development and the reason I created the podcast was partly inspired by the wonderful quote by Robin Sharma, “One of the saddest things in life is to get to the end and
look back in regret, knowing that you could have been, done, and had so much more.” And so through the podcast, my magic, speaking or training, I want to help others UNLOCK the best version of themselves and live an extraordinary life!

This leads us to the Confident Club…

I’ve been a massive fan and follower of Steve’s work, and in fact, I even use to use his 4-minute rule in all of my sessions to teach colleagues to create great first impressions. So it was only inevitable that I invited Steve to be a guest on the podcast to discuss the 4-minute rule and his book,” How to be complete and utter f**k up, 47 ½ steps to lasting underachievement.” It was a fantastic episode (You can listen to it HERE) and we got on like a house on fire! We kept in touch and I immediately connected with both his & Curly’s values and what they were doing at the Confident Club.

“Professional speakers unlock their secrets on presentation mastery”

In line with my mission to UNLOCK the best version of ourselves, Steve & Curly are also passionate about unlocking the secrets to presentation mastery. And after attending one of the Presentation Mastery workshops in 2021, I could see what all the fuss was about… this is life-changing stuff and I wanted to be a part of this!

The rest as they say is history, but now our beautiful adventure together begins…

The rest is yet to unfold, but I am really excited for you to see what’s in store and I am absolutely honoured to join the Confident Club to help unlock the secrets to presentation mastery, If you are still reading this, I can’t wait to meet you in person at one of the next sessions and UNLOCK the best version of you in your presentations!

Magical wishes, Ricky!

Funny how the difference between success and failure often comes down to as simple a thing as confidence

Mental strength, resilience, self belief and the ability to present oneself powerfully and persuasively have all been shown as the ultimate keys to getting to the top by sources as varied as Muhammad Ali and the Harvard Business School.

So what exactly is confidence?
Do you have it? If you do would you like even more? And if not, is there anything you can do to get it? Here at the Confident Club we have all the answers to these questions and more.

Check out our calendar for up coming Presentation Mastery Workshops both in Leeds, London and Boston USA.

For further information, enquire about our overseas events, or to book your place call +44 (0)113 3372037, +44 (0) 07780 977438 or email:

Brits fear making presentations more than dying

It seems the UK is a nation of shrinking violets as almost one in two Brits claim to be more scared of speaking in public or making presentations then they are of death.

In comparison, one in four claimed they were scared of dying (28%) and spiders (24%) and one in three (34%) scared of heights. Whilst only one in six (16%) claimed that the idea of losing their job was a cause of fear, one in twenty British adults (4%) still claim to be afraid of the dark.

The research, conducted on behalf of interactive technology distributor, Promethean AV Distribution, and presentation coaching leaders, The Confident Club, has found that despite almost half of the UK’s adult population (48%) making presentations to large audiences or speaking in public as part of their working life, 42% consider it to be one of their biggest fears.

Commenting on the findings, Steve McDermott, international business speaker and presentation coach, said that he was not surprised to hear that making presentations was one of the UK’s biggest fears despite so many respondents claiming to do so as part of their job.

Mr McDermott said: “The majority of people tend to panic when faced with the prospect of making a presentation to a large audience. Many over-rely on presentation software, archaic equipment and bullet point slides and fail to engage with their audience. This makes it much harder to retain their attention and ensure they are taking in the information you want them to. The problem stems from people believing they have to be perfect. No one is perfect and giving yourself permission to not be perfect, even embracing the mistakes you make, is part of understanding what makes a good presentation.”

“Our research also showed that one in three Brits (34%) believe they will significantly improve their career prospects by improving their presentation technique. This is something we believe is easily done with the right coaching and intelligent use of presentations technology.”

The research was conducted in February 2005 by YouGov using a UK representative sample of 2,000 adults.


 Top UK fears: Percentage (%) of UK public to list in their top three fears:
Speaking in public 42
Heights 34
Death 28
Spiders 24
Confined spaces 21
Unemployment 16
Flying 8
The dark 4
Parenthood 4
None of these 11


Brits fear making presentations more than dying

It seems the UK is a nation of shrinking violets as almost one in two Brits claim to be more scared of speaking in public or making presentations then they are of death.

  • In comparison, one in four claimed they were scared of dying (28%) and spiders (24%).
  • One in three (34%) scared of heights.
  • Only one in six (16%) claimed that the idea of losing their job was a cause of fear.
  • One in twenty British adults (4%) still claim to be afraid of the dark.
  • One in two UK adults (48%) make presentations as part of their working life.
  • One in three (34%) believe honing their presentation skills would enhance their career prospects.

The research was conducted in February 2005 by YouGov using a UK representative sample of 2,000 adults on behalf of Promethean AV Distribution, a leading distributor of interactive presentation solutions, and presentation coaching leaders, The Confident Club.

Lessons from Russia

“If you can impress the Russians then you have indeed succeeded. They have a very different life experience compared to Western Europeans and do not like to show emotion”

This is what Liz Kirkwood the American CFO of Metro Cash & Carry (Russia) told me whilst giving me a briefing over the phone before our trip to Russia

We have worked with loads of different nationalities in Boston, Berlin, Brussels and Barcelona but Moscow that was a very different challenge

Metro Cash & Carry (Russia) was going to be quite an experience so we approached it as we would if we were going to deliver a presentation

So lesson 1:

Research (know your audience)

This is a big company employing 120,000 people with over 700 stores in 29 countries. And I had never heard of them! Metro Cash & Carry (brands are METRO & MAKRO) are based in Düsseldorf and international expansion is an essential element of their corporate strategy, particularly in emerging markets including Russia

Metro Cash & Carry (Russia) is based in Moscow and employs over 28,000 people

WOW that was a great start but what now? We needed to find out more

One thing I did find out is that Russians love filling in bits of paper………you have no idea how long it took to get the visas(top tip…employ and agency to do that)

So BIG picture we found out that although most Russians love a good story (and you know how much we love a good storyteller) culturally if a person is in a superior position, “The Boss”, this is something they would not do as in their view of the world this shows weakness.

They are very authoritarian and greatly respect authority

How were we going to get them to open up?

On the workshop we were going to have the multinational Board of Directors including American, French, Dutch, Russian and Ukrainian.

Lesson 2

Give them a good reason why

This group needed to engage with both a multinational audience of bankers/ investors and their Russian colleagues who were mainly store managers

So one thing they were happy to do was to talk about was to tell the story of Metro Cash and Carry….. so a good start. They could use their personal experiences of Metro and talk about that

We took along a few good props including a Russian doll (you need to look inside to find out what is in there) and a book of Russian Fairy Tales to use as a metaphor.

Liz their CFO recognised that to get better engagement they needed to develop an emotional sell and develop trust. To hit the right emotional level and to get into the minds of their audience in order to connect with them

So I got on the phone and spoke to them all in advance. This worked well as I could both encourage them and deal with many challenges up front

Lesson 3

Don’t mind read or make assumptions

We arrived at the airport to be greeted by Mikail our driver for our visit. He grunted at us and set off into the freezing cold night lighting a cigarette as he went. It was December, minus 15 and there were great lumps of frozen snow everywhere. Steve and I both had heavy suitcases (mainly full of camera equipment and props) and Mikail did not offer to help in any way. We struggled along behind him.

Mikail was like this for 2 days. He did not smile or interact. I am a very friendly person who likes to talk to people and always smiles a greeting. This did not go down well in Moscow most people looked at me as if I had gone mad.

So I decided to learn (phonetically) some Russian phrases. I tried them out first on Mikail!

The results were remarkable. It turned out that he spoke pretty good English and my alarming attempts at Russian literally broke the ice. A lot of Russians believe that you have to meet a person a number of times to develop a level of trust and until then… do not even smile.

Mikail turned out to be a good guy who was warm and friendly once we got to know him. So don’t always make judgements based on first impressions

Lesson 4

Develop flexibility and thinking on your feet

So back to the Board of Directors

Business in Russia is still very hierarchical so the Board had a private dining room just like the good old days in the UK

On the morning of day 2 of the workshop they announced that not only were we having a 2 hour lunch we would also be tasting some new wines they were introducing into their stores

Very nice you may think but a challenge when we usually take 40 minutes and drink tea

It would have been rude not to and we did enjoy it

The result we dropped some stuff that was important but not crucial and they never knew

(One of the things we talk about on the workshop is that unless you tell people you have missed some stuff, they will never know)

Lesson 5

It’s important to understand a person’s view (beliefs) of the world

Where to start with Tatiana???

I would like you to imagine what you may perceive to be a “typical” Russian older woman.

Think of the Bond film From Russia With Love

Matching (real) fur hat, coat, gloves and boots, very glamorous with a gorgeous Russian accent

That was Tatiana our tour guide who greeted us in the foyer of the hotel on our last day

We had decided on the advice of our American CFO to hire a private guide…. A very good move

We got to do things in a day that would have taken us ages to figure out. Starting with the amazing metro and visits to Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral (the one with the amazing spires) and The Kremlin (where we saw the mind boggling famous Faberge eggs).

Red Square was a surprise mainly because there was a Walt Disney themed ice skating rink in the middle and loads of gorgeous Christmas trees

Tatiana was also a surprise. Very well educated and had travelled to Spain. She spoke fluent Spanish and English and had been a tour guide for many years so had met a lot of foreigners.

She had been educated for free by the communist regime and regretted the fall of communism and the Berlin wall

Here are some of her beliefs:

She spent most of the day talking to Steve and ignoring me. She had spent most of her life in a patriarchal society

Over a stop for coffee she thumped the table and announced that everyone knows that Obama is a Muslim

She nearly worships Putin and loves his exhibitions of strength (appearing bare chested or horse riding) “Good men are strong”. Please try to imagine that said with emphasis and a strong Russian accent

Although she is Ukrainian she supports the Russian treatment of the Ukraine

She was great. We had a fantastic day although we held virtually opposing views/ beliefs about the world….. so…. who was right?

It doesn’t really matter so long as you get it that what you believe to be true affects how you behave

Our favourite saying from Tatiana “When a Cossack gets back home he feeds his horse before he kisses his wife”. I think that sums it up!

Why not join our next open workshop in Leeds on 13th & 14th July ?

It’s not all Jam and Jerusalem

It may surprise you to discover that I am a member of the W.I. and if you are not from the UK you probably have no idea what the W.I is

It’s the Women’s Institute set up 100 years ago initially to help women in isolated rural communities. It is now well regarded (even the Queen is a member) and lobbies Parliament on various issues

But it’s not all Jam and Jerusalem as I found out last Wednesday when I went on a gliding experience with them from the top of Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire (The now famous Tour de Yorkshire had a Man of the Mountain competition there last May) It’s a 1000 feet high and very steep

I’m not telling you this to show off but to explain how it made me feel

It was (only a little bit) scary but mainly exciting and exhilarating…particularly the part when the glider (with no engine) was towed by a line attached to a small plane off the top of the bank and then climbed another 2000 feet before the line was released

I was in the front of the glider with Brian a very experienced pilot in the rear so I had an amazing view of nearly the whole of Yorkshire spread out 3000 feet below me. Brian was great fun and when he discovered that I really loved it we did some great turns and dips whilst chasing the dark clouds for lift. He even let me have a go with the joy stick for a while until saying “I’ll take it from here”

We had a perfect landing about 25 minutes later. I had pushed my comfort zone and I had a great feeling of achievement

Reflecting on it afterwards I thought that it was very much like giving a really important presentation (a 10 out of 10 one).

There was a slight feeling of apprehension beforehand along with an adrenalin boost when we actually took off followed by feelings of excitement and exhilaration. If you want to inspire and impress your audience then you need to be excited about what you are talking about and that will come over in your presentation as manner always wins over matter

We had planned it in advance and I had advice and a lot of support from the lovely Brian. When giving a presentation it’s crucial to plan and to get advice from someone who has done it before and knows what they are doing. It definitely makes it much less scary and much more effective

We also had help from the small plane that towed us off the bank. We couldn’t have done it without their help. Presenting is not just about doing it all yourself. Get advice and support from your colleagues. Rehearse in front of them and get feedback. This is something we every much encourage at The Confident Club particularly if they know what they are talking about

And finally……enjoy it. Look forward to the feeling of achievement when you have really pushed your comfort zone and gone for it

So my recommendation….. have a go at gliding ( or something you are a little apprehensive about). You will really enjoy it.

Together Stronger

Together Stronger.

(Why didn’t they say Stronger Together?)

What a great “phrase that pays” which if you think about it is also a great phrase that pays

I must admit that I am not a great fan of football, preferring rugby and cricket. However, I have followed the progress of the Welsh team with great interest.

I am really curious about what is their secret to success?

Why did they continue to do so well in the tournament when England limped home in disgrace?

So just a few quotes that I think sum it up:

Gareth Bale: “The Dragon is enough motivation for me. The team spirit is not just about bonhomie it’s about shared purpose.”

Neil Taylor: “We have the belief we can beat anybody. We’re not just saying these things. We’ve played like this for 2 years now, we know our jobs. We’re well drilled. It’s almost army like.”

So this is not an overnight sensation. They have planned together, worked together and share a strong common purpose together. (Good power of 3 Curly) It’s not just words. They truly believe in Together Stronger.

About a year ago Steve Mc D and I went to see Stuart Lee in London. He is in our opinion a true master of comedy (although not to everyone’s taste)

We went to have a great laugh and to study a genius. He did a very long and very funny sketch about Rod Liddle who is a columnist in the Sunday times. He is very opinionated and right wing of Attila the Hun. He is acerbic and sometimes very funny. This is what Rod Liddle had to say about the Welsh team:

“In the game against Belgium, in contrast to the England players, the players who scored Wales’s crucial goals were lower division journeymen, one of them released by a mediocre second tier side and without a club to play for. That’s Hal Robson-Kanu, who is about as Welsh as Kim Jong-un. Yet he scored the goal of the tournament so far with exquisite brilliance – perhaps because his acquired Welshness mattered and the game mattered and the result mattered and his team mates mattered. That’s the difference”

What do you think?

The power of belief can change your world

“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” William James

Last week at the Confident Club we had a great 2 day Presentation Mastery Workshop  here in Leeds. The workshop was run by Steve Mc Dermott ( supported by me as Head Coach.

The workshop was particularly enjoyable because all the delegates were outstanding in their willingness to push their boundaries and to try something new.

One of the crucial things that makes this workshop so successful is at The Confident Club we understand that for the workshop to make a lasting difference then beliefs must always underpin (come before) skills.

We have done a lot of research over the years studying professional speakers, charismatic speakers and more recently stand-up comedians in order to discover their “secrets”.

One of our many discoveries is that inspiring and influential speakers all share the same 4 beliefs which Steve talks about on the workshop

My favourite one is “You don’t have to be perfect”. Just be a person and not a presenter. Have you noticed that you can meet someone in the pub or at the coffee machine and they seem to be a perfectly nice chatty person and then you see them present and they change into “robot” man/woman?

So what happened?

This can be a challenge for many people. Hence the quote above. Sometimes the easiest way to create a new belief is just to act as if it is true and the belief will follow. We very much encourage this attitude on our Presentation Mastery workshop.

Celebrate Your Achievements

He looked like nowt but a slip of a lad when we first clapped eyes on him

A mere whippersnapper as we say up North

It was in 1996 at the newly opened and very prestigious Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Steve Mc Dermott (then with very dark hair.See below) was running his first ever conference for 500 people. I was there and it was all very exciting.

That’s when we first met Brendan Barnes who in 2016 is celebrating 20 years in business. He did this in style by hosting a champagne reception on the terrace of The House of Commons. Inside the Palace of Westminster looked like a set from Hogwarts. Very splendiferous.

Steve became one of Brendan’s first professional speakers for his then new speaker’s bureau called Speakers for Business. It does what it says on the tin and has been very successful.

That same year Steve spoke at a speakers showcase along with a man who has become one of the most watched speakers on TED. Sir Ken Robinson.(The guy leaning on his hand to the left of Steve.)

That day the speakers were all ranked and Steve was very excited to come in as a very close second to Sir Ken. It was 1996 after all.

It has been quite a journey for both Brendan and Steve. Steve is now the 3 times winner of the European Motivational Speaker of the Year award, bestselling author and co creator,along with yours truly, of The Confident Club.

Maybe we could ask for a rematch with Ken?

Brendan also set up the London Business Forum delivering exceptional speakers in wonderful and wacky venues. Including Steve, Sir Richard Branson and the aforementioned Sir Ken Robinson.

He has raised much needed money for Help The Hospices by asking his professional speakers (including Steve again) to push their comfort zones and to do 20 minutes of stand up at the world famous comedy store in Leicester Square.

Brendan has become an excellent speaker in his own right. On the night of the celebrations he spoke really well telling lots of personal stories. He was self-deprecating and very funny. He even made the many professional speakers that were there laugh out loud. Please see photographic evidence below. Steve now with grey hair and champagne along with David Taylor.

So to sum up:

1 Take calculated risks

“Fear is fleeting, regret is permanent”. Bungee Jump Master

2 Remember there is no failure only feedback (another one of my favourite beliefs.)

3 Celebrate your achievements. It doesn’t have to be with champagne on the terrace of the House of Commons overlooking the Thames and The London Eye. But if you can manage that then please go for it ( and  please do invite us).

Thanks Brendan

Yorkshire Born & Bred wi’ nowt teken out

Translation “Born and brought up in Yorkshire (the largest county in the UK for our overseas friends) with nothing taken out”

Or as Oscar Wilde put it “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”

I love Oscar’s “look”. He most definitely liked to be himself.

I was born in Yorkshire .God’s own county as we Yorkshire folk modestly like to call it and I am very proud to call myself a Yorkshire woman.

Some of you may know that Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being blunt (I prefer honest and to the point).

Another great “Yorkshire saying” in fact quoted recently by Sir Patrick Stewart, born and bred in Mirfield: “You can always tell a Yorkshire man….. but you can’t tell him much”

My friend Sylvia gave me this coaster (along with a few other fun gifts) for my birthday last year and I keep it on the desk in my office to put my mug of Yorkshire tea on.

I was looking at it the other day and got to thinking

Have you ever watched a presentation where you knew the presenter really well and when they got on their feet to present they turned into Mr/Ms “presenter man/woman”?

We see a lot of that on our Presentation Mastery workshop. The scariest so far, for those of you old enough to remember, was a woman who turned into Maggie Thatcher when she stood up to present.


We talk a lot on our workshop about the belief that when you present you don’t have to be perfect: You just need to be a person and not a presenter. In fact people don’t like perfect (and it’s impossible anyway).

I remember the massive look of relief on Matt’s face when we talked about this on one of our workshops. He looked as if the weight of the world had been taken off his shoulders.

He had worked at Marks & Spencer and his ex-boss had drilled it into him that he must learn everything by heart like a script. To be word perfect.

Which unless are an actor, like Patrick Stewart, is either impossible and/or makes you come across as stilted and unnatural.

And here were we telling Matt that it’s OK to be you.

It’s OK to make mistakes

You are a person, and not a presenter

So be yourself and be proud

Aren’t you just sick to death of terrible slides?

So you know when you get the big massive yellow skip in for a massive clear out and you think I’m going to chuck all the useless stuff away. Then there’s that tempting moment when you think I might need this. And it’s hard to let it go.

Same goes for your PowerPoint folks. You don’t need it. You know, we all know, that the vast majority of people don’t use PowerPoint they abuse it. And the key way  in which they they abuse it is to remember what they are going to say. Thing is what is the alternative? Well why not spend two full days with me and just seven other people and amongst other things prove to yourself you have a brilliant memory.