Neil Denny is a lawyer specialising in family law. He had created a tool called ‘Conversational Riffs’ as a pack of cards that he used to explain how to better resolve personal conflict.
“As a divorce lawyer, I had been speaking to Rotary Clubs and small breakfast networking event for a couple of years, thinking that what I was doing was promoting my law firm and the legal work that I did. But something happened. In the dark days of January 2009 it became apparent that my law department was overstaffed. Things would have to change. Something struck me right there. In this darkness was real opportunity. ‘Let me go.’ I said to my employers. I knew that I was really enjoying my speaking work and wanted to do more of it. Feedback told me that my signature talk, Conversational Riffs, really touched people; they were inspired by it. Believe me, when you have spent your working life so far as a divorce lawyer, there is not much scope for inspiring people, so when you hear that word, spoken over the work that you do, it kind of sticks in the mind.”
He decided to turn the material into a book. In Neil’s words:
“I spent that summer writing and refining the 35,000 words or so that was required. I was able to recycle 4–5,000 words of material from a blog that I had been writing for the previous 18 months, and that was a great help. I nearly got stung by a publisher who wanted £25,000 from me to publish my book. They asked and I baulked. ‘Share the risk’ they called it. It might have shared some of their bloated overheads, but it multiplied my risk massively. Instead I met and worked with Ayd Instone under his Sunmakers label, a brilliant decision and one I recommend to many people.”
As Neil uses music, especially Jazz, as a metaphor in the book to explain how different instruments play different melodies but still work together, we turned the metaphor into a visual one by designing the book in the style of a Jazz/Blues record. We made it 7″ square, just like a record and used typography associated with Jazz and Blues.
The result was a great looking book that as soon as anyone saw it, they ‘got it’. It was launched in time for Neil’s first large conference talk. Having the book, the branded presentation on the screen with the graphics from the book and banner and business cards helped make Neil and the talk come together as a complete package.
“The talk went well and as I stepped down from the podium, to warm applause, I realised that something had happened. I was no longer just a lawyer working on divorce cases. In my pocket were new business cards which read: ‘Neil Denny – Speaker • Trainer • Author’, I had created a new career, a new livelihood. And it felt good. It felt good to create, to share knowledge and ideas, and to entertain at the same time. I knew that the chance to make a difference, to inspire, was far greater in this arena than in the court room. I was born again, born into a second career and about to embark on an exciting journey that will lead me who knows where.”
Since then Neil’s speaking has really taken off. He now speaks at conferences all over the world. His second book was commissioned by a major publisher and is out soon.
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