I went on a Champagne tasting trip to Reims recently, and visited one of these renowned Champagne houses. An unforgettable and indulging Sparkling Wine tourism experience! And a surprisingly adequate analogy for Communication. Why?

Not only because the level of people’s eloquence and guts for candid communication seem to rise with the sound of each Champagne cork popping up. But also because of the Champagne Tower. You know … These crystal set-ups where the champagne is filled in the top glasses, from where it spills over to the next level underneath, until eventually, the precious bubbles land in the glasses at the bottom of the tower.

This reminded me of the communication cascade, where information structurally drip feeds to all levels in an organization, with everyone ultimately being involved. Cascades involve a certain hierarchy and might seem at odds with flattening workplace hierarchies that have been trending for several years. But if all actors in the cascade play their roles as Leaders and Communicators, passing down the news (like the overflowing champagne), people will feel connected – with their team, their managers and even the CEO.
I’ve come to appreciate time and again how good communication cascades spark collaborations, increase productivity and build engagement.

Senior leaders, in particular, need to share what’s going on in their business, and if they regularly fill these top champagne glasses, the cascading tower will do its magic! Done authentically and timely these kind of communication spill overs can build a real connection with employees and customers.

Make your cascades work:
1. Don’t let them dry up half way (“my line manager did not pass on the information”): Train your leaders into Communication-capable line managers who take their responsibility to explain corporate information to their respective teams

2. Stop one-size-fits all: Segment your audiences and package your messages into digestible chunks

3. Tailor the central storyline to cultural contexts: Your messages, imagery and tonality must match different businesses, countries or cultures

Upskilling middle managers with communication and cascade techniques is vital for all those who lead. Want to improve your communication and put your effort to where it can make the biggest difference? Join one of the upcoming danibu communications trainings (Champagne guaranteed …). Santé’, Cheers and Prost!

Live illustrations (or visual recording) are a great way to capture people’s quotes, conversations and feelings during meetings, presentations or workshops by creating a visual report (instead of boring ‘meeting minutes’ with only text, text and text …). All you do is hire an external illustrator (I know a good one …) who joins your meeting on-site and who co-signs live all conversations, decisions, energy and flow.

The illustrator (also called Graphic Recording Artist) will be doing their best to wow the audience, to entertain, educate and inform – all of which is better than participants staring at their smart phone. The outcome is a visualized poster of the meeting, which stimulates the creativity of all attendees during and after the meeting, as they will be looking at the drawing and receive information in different way.

Especially in times of change, a good image gives gestalt to feelings, strengthens the dialog and provides new insights.

As a trained linguist (I originally studied English and Spanish philology before I ended up in internal communications 25 years ago …) I’ve always found rhetorical devices the goldmine for creating emotional connection in my communication.

Using rhetorical techniques are a powerful and manipulative strategy that can benefit your speech big time. They convey meaning, provoke a response or persuade in a debate. You’ve probably used some of them before without ever thinking about it.

The rhetorical question is a good example:

“Are we doing the right thing?”
”Can you imagine that?”
“Isn’t that incredible?”
“Want to see that again?”
“Pretty cool, huh?”

Often asked to an audience in order to get them thinking seriously about the question and its implications – but without expecting an answer. The goal is to facilitate a discussion.

Here are my 10 favorite rhetorical devices. Don’t just read the article – try inserting a few of them in your next speech!

1. Alliteration
Repeating the initial letter of a word:
“They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places” – Barack Obama

2. Amplification
Building on a word, phrase or sentence, evoking a sense of urgency and intensity:
“They want a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood”

3. Anaphora
Words repeating at the beginning of successive phrases or sentences:
“As you know, we’ve got the iPod, best music player in the world. We’ve got the iPod Nanos, brand new models, colors are back. We’ve got the amazing new iPod Shuffle” – Steve Jobs

4. Assonance
Repeating a vowel sound in a sentence:
“I feel the need, the need for speed” – Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun’

5. Chiasmus
Reversing the word order in the second of two parallel phrases or sentences to invoke powerful emotion:
“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country” – John F. Kennedy

6. Euphemism
Substituting an unpleasant phrase with a more pleasant one to make it sound nicer (or not hurt somebody’s feelings):
“I’m not bossy – I’m outspoken!”

7. Hyperbole
Exaggerating a description for emphasis:
“Red Bull gives you wings” – Red Bull advertising slogan

8. Onomatopoeia
Imitating the natural sounds of a thing. The mimicking sound effect makes the description more expressive and interesting:
“The gun went bang!”

9. Simile
Explicitly comparing two (unalike) things, usually using “as” or “like”:
“You’re as cold as ice” – Foreigner

10. Metaphor
Comparing two things that aren’t alike but do have something in common. Unlike a simile, where two things are compared directly, a metaphor’s comparison is more indirect, usually made by stating something is something else. A metaphor is not meant to be taken literally. You’ll have to find the deeper meaning of it:
“Love is a battlefield” – Pat Benatar

Do you often need photos for different applications and purposes? For example, for your social media banners, like Twitter or LinkedIn? Or for your websites? Your (PowerPoint)presentations or company brochures? And do you hate the hassle of having to chose or make photos fit to different formats?

Then pixelhunter.io might be something for you! It’s a free image converter that makes re-sizing your imagery a piece of cake. Just upload a photo, and pixelhunter.io instantly converts it to the most important formats for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or TikTok. You can download the converted pictures individually, or compressed in one handy zip file.

Fonts are important to give language a design and branding. Fonts turn words into impactful triggers on an audience’s different senses. Font psychology and choice are something a communicator can’t afford to overlook.

Did you know that fonts were originally created by hand? Printers would arrange the letters and characters in their (work)shop and so a font was often named after the printer who created it. Take Garamond, named after the French printer Claude Garamonde. Or Bodoni, named after the Italian typographer Giambattista Bodoni: Their fonts are still in use today. Classic and universally recognizable.

Giving font selection careful thought when (re)designing your brand, website, brochure or other collateral is as important today as it was back then. What would fonts say about themselves if they could speak?

“My name is Times New Roman > I am not original”
“My name is Comic Sans > People do not take me seriously”
“My name is Helvetica > I look good in everything: From email, to PPT slides or as the Mac system font”

Concentration only works if you are fit – mentally and physically. So, it’s good to free your mind from mental clutter every now and then. Maybe you have the luxury of meditating, breathing or doing mindfulness exercises before a meeting? Or a 1-minute relaxation to clear your mind before you get active?

Focus is the new “IQ”, and regular brain breaks help to sustain it. So, why not inserting the perfect pause into your daily routine? And, what makes a pause perfect anyway?

The timing

  • Multitasking is a myth. Better to focus on one task only
  • Don’t focus on a single task for more than 45 minutes. Three quarters of an hour is considered the ideal amount of time to focus on one item before our brain starts to require a break and becomes more inefficient

The duration

  • Take a break of at least 7.5 minutes

The type

  • Be strict about what you do during your pause
  • Don’t spend it staying at the same (work)place
  • Change the scenery: Go for a walk – outside (yes, even if it’s cold or rainy!)
  • Don’t take your mobile phone with you
  • Don’t fill the pause with ‘brain-consuming’ activities, such as reading the newspaper or watching the news. Give the brain room to muse
  • Consider using the Pomodoro technique. Invented by Francesco Cirillo as a time management tool, the pomodoro stands for the kitchen timer with which Cirillo divided the working day into time blocks of 25 minutes, delimited by breaks of 5 minutes. A simple, but effective method to work fully focused in certain periods, to then regularly clear your head completely and start the next period fresh.

The cold

  • Join a Wim Hof Training and step into an ice bath. Take it from me – this is a full immersion pause and does miracles to your ability to focus!

Covid-19 hit most companies when their organizational culture still showed a top-down working style: Stylish top management corner offices, employees required to punch in and out for work, and pay checks tied to attendance (rather than performance). Will the quarantine change conservative corporate culture for good?

Actually, The Netherlands, was the first country to revolutionize work and communication practices long before Covid-19 and the concept of the 6-Feet-office.They invented the new, remote way of working – with creative agencies and tech start-ups as early adopters. Some examples of how they replaced Presenteeism by activity-based working:

Virtual ‘check in’
Employees work any time and anywhere: They don’t clock in or out, but start the day by sending a ‘check-in’ photo to an internal app group

Output only
Employees have a personal work plan (results to achieve) and submit daily work reports through apps. Their actual hours worked don’t matter – their discipline does

Around the globe
Employees adopt agile working principles, technology and facilities. They work location-free (being based anywhere in the world) and are part of virtual teams. All documentation needed from “the office” can be accessed without ever going near the building

Email ban
Despite a blurred border between home and work, employees have the right to disconnect: Their company sets its internal servers to not route emails to employees during certain hours/times. The result: Increased staff well-being and health

Travel ban
Travel policies are updated, avoiding travel whenever possible and encouraging virtual meetings

Office space
Open-plan designs and creative spaces replace traditional offices, which nurtures innovative ideas, speed up decision-making and foster cultural change. Some companies install English telephone booths (the iconic red phone kiosks from the UK), allowing personal phone calls. The phone cabins provide oxygen for 1 hour max. (no joke)

Leaders lead
Leaders are assessed annually on how well they support agile working of their teams. This feeds into their bonus. All board members are visible, and have so-called casual collisions with employees anywhere around the building. Perfect internal communication!

Work is a product
“Work” is no longer a place to go to. It’s an activity for a purpose. A “job” is no longer a list of tasks performed by an employee, but a tradeable commodity that is paid by results. To get a piece of work done, companies put out a request on the internet and offer it to an independent contractor or freelancer, who, in turn, bids for work online and gets paid for results.

So – will the quarantine change conservative corporate culture for good?

Yes, I think organizations will be transforming from rigid employers to flexible networks in order to get the best results from people. Look at Twitter or Facebook: They just announced they’ll allow their employees to work from home ‘forever’.

2020: Welcome to a planet in quarantine (aka Corona pandemic). Around the world, live meetings are out, digital is in. Whether you use Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex, Google Hangouts or Facetime (to name, but a few), the principles for online meeting success remain amazingly consistent when you follow a few basic steps.

In the past few months, people have asked me to share tips on how to run good online workshops and meetings. It turns out I have quite some experience with that, so, here’s my personal shortlist of take-aways. No particular order. They work.

1. Create your video studio

  • Create a professional or plain background behind you for every videoconference
  • Install adequate lighting and a decent microphone (most earbuds work fine)

2. Dress for success (at least the parts visible onscreen)

  • Dress for the day
  • Your morning prep routine determines your mindset for the day. Don’t join conference calls in bed in your pajamas (even though it’s tempting …)
  • Brush your teeth

3. Do a dry run

  • Be sure the system works. Technical complications mean trouble
  • Do the slides work? The sound? Are pictures in the presentation compressed to reduce file size and bandwidth, thus reducing the risk of freezing or unresponsive connections?

4. Turn off

5. Interact

  • Call on people
  • Don’t go more than five minutes without asking a question — even if you just ask participants to write quick answers in a chat box. This gets people’s thoughts going
  • When you do want an answer, call on someone specific. Then people will have to pay attention. They don’t want to be the person who fumbles, isn’t ready to unmute or missed the question

6. Be crisp

  • What’s true for a live presentation is doubly true for a presentation online. Keep your messages brisk
  • Use short sentences
  • Use the power of 3 (bullet points per slide)
  • Shorten the session. A two-hour live workshop equals a 60-minute online version. Live events consist of 50% non-verbal and only-social interaction. Not so relevant in the online version
  • Compress your content, and people leave hungry for more, motivated to do assignments afterwards

7. Entertain

  • Nothing is worse than a dull monotone voice, reading the bullets on a screen
  • Play with the tone and pitch of your voice, change your speech rhythm, throw in a silly joke — whatever works with your personality
  • The key is to be a little unpredictable

If you’re looking for an individual 2-hour coaching session of how to better communicate in online meetings, contact danibu.


There is no substitute for a good conversation – with whoever. But, interviews are not conversations: It’s the media’s opportunity to get a story. Your job is to tell your story, your way – you don’t have to answer the question asked!

To improve your media skills, you need to prepare, prepare, prepare! I’ve said it 3 times because it’s THAT important! Even if you do interviews frequently, you’ll benefit from rehearsal: Practicing bridging and flagging techniques, trying out answers to tough questions, or simply hearing the words come out of your mouth. Have a colleague role play as the reporter and ask you a few questions while you go through the 9 golden rules for interview preparedness:

  1. Never lie
  2. Never say “no comment”
  3. There is no “off the record”, so you can better ask “Can I see the quotes before you use them? When’s your deadline? Do you need pictures?”
  4. Be short, get to the point and always think of the audience
  5. Stay confident and look at the interviewer (you don’t have anything to hide, do you?). When seated, lean forward slightly. This posture will give you a sense of energy and make you look like an active storyteller, rather than a passive person who is there just to answer questions.
  6. Use simple language, avoid jargon, bridge and flag where appropriate: “Is there a particular angle you want to take, or should we just talk generally?” “Would you be interested in talking about …?”
  7. Stay in control. Remember you’re doing the interview because you have a story to tell. Stick to your position, no matter how many times they ask.
  8. Don’t speculate: It’s OK to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”.
  9. Relax! In the end, reporters want to talk with people who sound like regular human beings. They don’t want to interview people who merely sound like they are reading a press release or prepared statement.

You have a looming speech ahead and no idea where to begin. Commencing work on a new presentation usually means lots of ideas spinning in your head and not knowing how to sort them.

The solution is a speech map. It’s a simple mind map (yes, really drawn on a physical piece of paper), on which you outline your talk. The speech map (or speech diagram) shows your ideas linked to and arranged radially around your central key topic. Drawing the map makes your ideas graphic, prioritizes your thoughts and shows connections between information. So, basically, you ‘sort your brain’.

Here is the danibu speech map template you can use for the preparation of your next public speech. Simply edit it by changing and including the topics that you are going to deliver:

1. Crystallize the subject of attention in a central theme. This is your headline
2. Define – ideally 3 – key points, radiating as branches from your headline
3. Add another level of 3 supporting points (details) from your key points