Working with a young woman recently, in preparation for a grueling series of set-piece interviews. The challenge is not around “knowing her stuff”, as the process doesn’t expect her to know very much, but rather is a test of how she thinks on her feet and how she articulates what she is thinking, all under the pressure of time.

This is a very different kind of test which requires a very different kind of preparation. What we came up with, together, is a process where we collect all her thoughts and messages around broad relevant themes, then practise throwing a clay pigeon into the air to see if she can hit it out of the park, if you’ll forgive the mixed-up metaphors.

As we continued to toss questions around she became more and more adept at picking and choosing bits of her personal stories, linking them to her take on the issue in question, and delivering the answer with the headline first, followed by an example from her own experience, rounded out with what she knows, thinks and believes about the issue overall.

I have to admit it was a very different way to coach someone but it’s what makes one on one coaching so rewarding. Bespoke, customized approaches take more time and certainly more in-the-moment creativity but at the end of it all I know I’ve delivered exactly what’s needed, not some generic advice anyone could look up online in a quick search. Off the shelf platitudes aren’t going to help you hone your own messages, nor challenge you to think deeper about your answers. That’s what humans are for.

Joanna Piros