Presenting made brilliant with pro-manchester members

Wednesday, 4th September 2019

Post-event guest blog by Chris Penney – RADA Business.

Tutor insight and reminders

Hello, tutor Chris Penney from RADA Business here.

Thanks to all of you who attended the recent Presenting Made Brilliant masterclass for pro-manchester members. It was a real pleasure to meet and work with you all and we hope you enjoyed the morning.

It was a highly practical session and, of course, you can’t just talk about presentation skills – you have to test them out! And it was great that people stepped up and took a risk, particularly in front of strangers.

We need to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone. Remember that just because something feels natural or ‘comfortable’ it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has the impact we want. We can also be more playful. Enjoy being creative with your presentations and find pleasure in experimenting with your physical and vocal presence.

Observe others and get feedback about your own presentation skills. Be forensic about it. What works and what doesn’t? Keep useful habits and add new skills and behaviours into your repertoire. When you take the risk and try something new, it may feel ‘odd’ and uncomfortable (like driving a car for the first time) but eventually, with practice, it becomes second nature.

Authenticity is important. And as you develop our presentation skills, you’re not aiming to change your personality but rather minimise less useful habits and add in more useful ones. So you can be the best version of yourself, in your role as a presenter.

As a reminder, here are the topics we covered, in brief:

Warm up

We worked on relaxing muscles and stretching, both vocally and physically. Why? Because you’ll get a better result if your body, voice and mind is prepared. Just like at the gym.

Yawn: relax the larynx and create space in the mouth for air and sound to pass though easily.

Claim your space

We practiced entering and owning your space. Think about walking, relaxed and upright, to a powerful position centre stage. Smile and make eye contact (yes, you can say ‘hello’ as you walk in!) But arrive and pause and breathe before you start your presentation.

Physical presence and posture

Think about being upright and relaxed. Grounded with both feet connected strongly to the floor. Practice being tall but not military, with a long spine, and breadth across the shoulders. Head floating up on top. Take up space.

Breathing for relaxation

Breathe out to breathe in. Think about deep, easy breaths. Don’t over breathe. Try counting out breaths – deep into your belly area. Let those stomachs go! Breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, out for four. Then try breathing in for six, out for six and then eight. Notice how your breathing slows and you feel more in control and grounded.

Breathe for vocal power

Remember the ‘psssht’ exercise? A sound like gas escaping from a burst pipe? Feel the connection of the muscles in the abdomen and the breath out of the body. This is breath support. Think of the voice as being powered from your gut rather than your throat.

Breathe and pause. At RADA we have a mantra: Think. Breathe. Speak. If you remember nothing else. Remember your pause. It may feel like the pause lasts forever but it won’t feel like that to your audience.

Articulation

Sound like you know your stuff. Be articulate. Warm up your speech with some tongue twisters.

Tone of voice

This should depend upon your audience and your content rather than how you’re feeling.

Eye contact and gesture

I think of eye contact and facial expression as part of your whole body gesture. Think about sending one thought, with one breath and direct it to someone specific in the audience. Then move on. For gesture, it will help you to keep your elbows away from your body and your hands higher than your elbows.

Finally, practice

Many people miss the opportunity to practice out loud, in front of a trusted colleague or peer. Try it out. Until you do, you won’t know what’s going to come out of your mouth. Ask for clear feedback and think forensically: What did I do well, exactly? What could I improve?

That’s it for now from me. Thanks again for all your hard work and humour and the very best of luck in your presentations!

About the author

Chris Penney

Chris trained at Rose Bruford College and worked as a leading actor for several years in theatre, TV, film and radio.

He then moved into the field of arts and charitable grant-making, working for the Community Fund and the Arts Council. He also worked as a learning and development consultant, scoping the design, delivery and evaluation of management and leadership development programmes in the not-for-profit sector.

Chris has a first class BA Hons in Theatre Arts and an MA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Chris has 15 years of experience in delivering training for groups and coaching individuals. He specialises in presentation skills, communication skills, personal presence, leadership and management and personal vocal impact.

Chris’s clients have included the Diana Memorial Fund, the Institute of Civil Engineers, Lloyds TSB, Clerical Medical, GlaxoSmithKlein, Deloitte and PA Consulting.

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