Society of Teachers Conference at Chichester Uni.
Having done a half-day session at the Society of Teachers of Speech and Drama Conference (STSD) a few years before on how to take your skills into the corporate and business world, I was pleased to be invited to do a session on something different, relevant, stimulating and enjoyable. Talking to experienced practitioners is always a challenge and getting the balance right between tone, style and content is a real challenge; making the session as interactive as possible with such a large number was another consideration.
I wanted to achieve a combination of sharing of my experience and passion for the subject with humorous demonstrations and practical experience. I decided to base my approach on the importance of physical, emotional and intellectual preparation and chose the title ‘Great Communication – a Skill and not a Gift’.
My opening premise was that an audience hears how you feel before they listen to what you have to say. I drew on over 20 years’ experience of presentation and media training and coaching in the corporate and business sectors and two colleagues, Dominic Singleton and Barbara McGeary, gave periodic light-hearted demonstrations of some of the more entertaining incidents of poor communication that I have experienced.
We included such things as nervous entries, full scripts read without full understanding from behind a large podium, a learnt and then forgotten speech, and some hilarious examples of PowerPoint delivery, unreadable slides and equipment which failed to work.
After discussing the crucial importance of having a powerful opening, the delegates were invited to prepare the opening to a speech of their choice during the coffee break. A selection of these were performed, filmed and analysed for impact, style and presence, and to give the delegates a sense of how I work with the camera and replay to help trainees on my courses to develop.
My aim was to engage, entertain and inspire the audience both as speakers and as teachers of public speaking.
The sessions (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) were dynamic, vital, varied, lively (and exhausting). I accomplished the balance of information, engagement and entertainment that I’d aimed for and was delighted with the enthusiastic response from my audience. Delegates were given many strategies, including how to structure speeches, how to handle prompt cards, and how to prepare both physically and vocally.
To conclude, these are a couple of quotes from the STSD Newsletter:
From her opening words the audience was enthralled. This was Susan Ford, Professor and Fellow of Speech and Communication, and a leading authority on presentation and communication skills at her most eloquent. This was not just a session on the techniques of public speaking, it was a masterclass.”
The highlight of the conference for me was public speaking with the wonderful Susan Ford”