A Delegate’s View of Presentation Skills Training
By Tom Hall
I recently attended the LDL Presentation Skills programme, coached by Nick Evans. Challenging and rewarding in equal measure, I found the programme so effective, and the trainer so engaging, that I wanted to write a short piece describing my two-day experience of the training. I hope this article proves useful to others considering a presentation skills course.
I work as a consultant and copywriter for a web development agency. Although I never thought of myself as a particularly bad public speaker, I recognise the importance of delivering excellent and engaging presentations especially when pitching to clients, and had heard of the LDL programme through a recommendation from a colleague.
Described on the LDL website as aiming to ‘help participants communicate naturally, to be themselves on their feet’, I was soon calling up the LDL office to find out more. The subsequent booking experience was an absolute delight, giving me the chance to speak with Lizzie, a faultlessly helpful and enthusiastic adviser. Before I knew it I had received the joining instructions and was eagerly awaiting the training to commence.
The programme took place in the Copthorne Hotel at Chelsea Football Club, just opposite the LDL offices on the Fulham Road. I arrived feeling a little nervous at 9:15 am on the first day, to meet Nick and the other delegates (a range of ages, experience, and occupation), and by 9:30 am the training was underway.
I have never met a coach as good as Nick. Right from the outset he was winning us over with his warmth and humility, creating an open environment within which we would be free to make presentations and experiment with our style. The content was soon coming thick and fast, and I was concentrating to take it all in.
“We’ve all seen good presentations before,” began Nick, “but how many of you have stopped to work out what made them good?” None of us raised our hands with much confidence, but Nick reassured us and went on to demystify the process, talking us through the ‘essential presentation skills’.
Well-structured and fizzing with practical tips and anecdotes from start to finish, I found myself working hard to keep up. We covered topics including pausing, nerves, eye contact, body language and structure, with examples ranging from Eddie Izzard to Martin Luther King. Here are some more specific details and take-away points:
- Pausing – every period of silence feels like an eternity when you are presenting to a group of people, but being able to pause creates patterns of suspense and variety in your speech, and encourages the audience to listen to you rather than merely to hear.
- Nerves – everyone gets nerves, and you always look less nervous than you feel. The challenge is to use the energy the nerves give you to positive effect.
- Eye contact – being able to make eye contact with individual members of the audience, to pick them out and hold their gaze for a couple of seconds, is one of the most effective ways of drawing them in to your talk.
- Body language – the way you stand and act is important. Don’t shuffle around or fidget, but manufacture confidence with a firm stance and assertive movements.
- Structure – perhaps one of the most useful aspects of the course, learning how to structure a presentation effectively so as to deliver the message you want to deliver as clearly and succinctly as possible.
The real core of the programme was our chance to put the coaching to use. We made four presentations each over the course of the two days, usually between two and three minutes long. Two of the presentations were video recorded.
Now the prospect of watching myself on video was not something I was particularly looking forward to. But having the chance to see yourself as other see you was in fact enormously helpful. It doesn’t look as bad as it feels, and in combination with focused, individual coaching from our tutor proved an excellent way of assessing and improving our style.
Indeed all of us improved significantly over the course of the two days. Working closely with Nick, giving feedback to ourselves and to each other, we all came away enjoying our presentations and with newfound confidence in our abilities. “Good speakers are not born; they are developed” as it says in the LDL training manual, and while it was a challenging couple of days, I came away at the end elated at my progress and inspired to put my skills to use.
What Made The Programme?
The programme was clearly structured, and the content was excellent. But the difference for me was the tutor – an inspiring coach with time, energy and enthusiasm for us all. Simply having the chance to spend two days with Nick was immensely helpful, as it gave us the chance to see first-hand what good presentation was about, and hopefully also to pick up some of his style!
I have already told friends and colleagues about this programme; really I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thanks to all the LDL team involved in facilitating the event. I look forward to the next programme!
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