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The Act of Communication

Date: Wednesday 20th April 2016

Our EMA April event took place on 18th May at the SOHO Hotel, part of Frimdale hotels,  where we all engaged in a presentation and work shop led by Justine Balmer and Simon Greenhill. The couple have been working together and delivering trainings and workshops for various companies. They both have background in acting and singing, and Justine is also a TV presenter. They both have their own entertainment companies and work with a range or artists and performers at corporate events and parties


After a glass of champagne at the newly refurbished Crimson Bar we were all sat at their beautiful Screening room … but not for long! Justine and Simon had not only prepared some visual examples of good and bad presentations but had also prepared some activities for all of us after a discussion about how we perceive communication.

What is most important when presenting ourselves?

The ability to speak in public is an invaluable skill. Presentations can often be a very stressful experience that puts us out of our comfort zone and  sometimes leaves a bitter taste in our mouth because we feel we haven`t given the best we could have. We deliver presentations at work as part of our tasks, when we lead team meetings and also when we network. The truth is that successful and impactful presentations require confidence, and confidence comes with experience and training. In order to communicate clearly who we are as professionals and individuals, we should be mindful of a range of elements which lead to a successful presentation. After we watched and listened to a few presentations delivered by some of our guests in the audience we all gave constructive feedback and concluded that there were a few noticeable factors that influenced our perceptions about the person presenting. These were confidence, passion when speaking about what they do and what they love to do, sounding believable and convincing. All these important aspects of a presentation derive from the 3 main areas in communication and presentation philosophy:

1)      Storytelling

Storytelling is about how one constructs their act/piece. It is the subject of what we are presenting and it is the message we are trying to send across. It is important that this piece is concise and makes clear points about who we are, what we believe in and what we want to achieve.

2)      Body language

Body language is the science behind the way we behave when we speak and present ourselves. It ultimately communicates how confident we are, how open and honest we are, how passionate and trustworthy we are. The physical elements of body language refer to eye contact, gesture with hands, body movements and facial expressions. Justine and Simon encouraged eye contact and the use of our hands as tools to build trust and be more convincing. We all use our hands when we speak and there is nothing wrong in doing so as long as we don`t overdo it and make the person/people we are talking to uncomfortable.

3)      Tone of voice

Tone of voice is very important in order to keep the attention and to engage with the audience. The way we sound, the energy of our breath and the inflation of our voice are driving force in building a positive impression. Sometimes we tend to speak very quickly especially when nerves kick in, and often we are aware of it, therefore there are special techniques about managing this stress and managing the way we breathe and speak. Even if it may sound to us as if we speak too slowly, it actually sounds convincing and clear to the person listening and trying to understand and learn more about us.

How to craft your presentation?

“If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack.” 
― Winston Churchill

Preparation is the foundation of every presentation. It takes practice to polish the speech and behaviour in front of an audience, and of course, to remember what you are goung to say. The Preparation involves research on the topic, the audience,  the venue and all other "smaller" aspects such as technical requirements. Rehearse and perform with confidence.

Structure is important in order to send a clear message that is easy to understand and touches on all important points without getting too lenghty or confusing. Structure comprises of three parts: beginning, middle part and conclusion. The middle part is the crux of every presentation as it has to focus on 3 main points in order to keep it consise and effective. It is important to remember to include a sentence that reiterrates these three points. The end/conclusion is to remind the audience about the key message! 

The Impact a presentation has on its audience is the most successful measurement of the presenter`s success. This refers to the level of audience engagemment and how this engagement can be increased. There are a few factors that influence the impact. The first one is Aristotle’s three fundamental laws of any persuasive act, namely, logic (the reasoning of the argument), trust(the credibility of the speaker) and emotion(appeal too the audience`s emotion). The other factors evolve around the use of lanfuage and how we sound, repetition and the use of quotations to build credibility, emotional engagement and personalising/visualising statistics/

All these elements play a key role in building a successful presentation. Simon made a great point about how we present ourselves through social media and the significant influence this has nowadays. There are two main phenomenon we notice – people either underestimate the importance of being mindful about how we are perceived through social media (i.e. the pictures we post on Facebook, the tweets that go out of our Twitter account, the topics and publications we follow on LinkedIn), or they have a powerful presence through social media but really struggle in presenting themselves successfully in person. These are all part of our own personal branding.

How we approach personal branding is another topic on its own but when giving a presentation it is important to keep the conversation going, to ask questions, to provoke the audience to get interested in us and to want to ask us questions. Being able to finish a presentation successfully isn`t an easy task. Justine suggested that the best approaches sometimes are either to build a strong finish line, which almost puts an exclamation mark in the end, or to ask a question, to create and keep a conversational experience.

Justine and Simon built such a friendly, relaxed and open environment in the room that left us somehow knowing each other and ourselves better. They brought their own unique approach to improving communication and presentation skills through an Actor's eye.  

People sometimes would say “Fake it to make it” and if this is what works for you, do it this way. As long as you have the confidence in everything you`re saying you will become the domimnant person you want to be. If you can`t, then be true to yourself and be the best version of yourself which will help in building rapport with your audience and guarantees strong impression.

Special Thanks go out to Firmdale Hotels and the fabulous Justine and Simon for making this event an unforgettable, very educational and fun evening!