Like many job roles, PR affords numerous opportunities to present, communicate and pitch to audiences of various sizes. These activities – no matter how often they are practiced – can sometimes be nerve-racking, pressurised and for some, exceed their comfort zone.

Fortunately, the team at GingerMayPR recently participated in a training session with Hendrix The Dog Productions to help build on those all-important presentation skills.

The training company is formed of professionally trained actors and provides a unique approach to presentation coaching. Through a number of exercises, the team at Hendrix equips participants with confidence-building techniques that can help prepare them the next time they need to present to individuals or groups.

Here are some of our key takeaways from the session that could help you to shine the next time you present.

Sitting comfortably?

Hazel Johnstone, Senior Account Manager: “My key takeaway from the training session was realising the importance of body language – even when you are talking on the phone. Our trainer, Craig, demonstrated the effect that body language and positioning can have upon the pitch and projection of your voice. He illustrated that by standing – or even just sitting up straight rather than slouching – the improved projection of your voice can make you sound more confident and authoritative. So next time you feel slightly unnerved about a telephone pitch, try standing up – no one else will know, apart from your colleagues!”

Are you listening?

Sarah Forrest, Account Manager: “I was shocked that when asked to pair up and tell our partner three facts about ourselves – two true and one false – many of us could barely remember our partner’s three statements. We were all so focussed on coming up with the facts that we would tell that we had failed to concentrate on what our partner was saying. This highlighted a common mistake that presenters often make – as they begin to think of external factors or upcoming parts of the presentation they can subsequently fail to concentrate fully on what they are actually saying and their delivery, causes them to lose their place.”

I have a tongue and I’m not afraid to use it!

Elizabeth Bristow, Account Executive: “For me, the reminder that our tongue is a muscle and so needs to be warmed up before speech – just as you would warm up your calf muscles before playing football – was particularly interesting. I hadn’t considered this before, but can definitely see the benefit of a quick routine check that everything is in order before presenting. We practiced this, not by coughing or clearing our throats, but by yawning emphatically! Opening our airways and exercising our vocal chords really helps prepare our voices for dialogue – which surprised us. I will certainly not be holding back any early morning yawns in the office now.”

Learning your lines? Don’t bother

Charlotte Williams, Account Executive: “The activity that particularly stuck out for me was the task of presenting a short paragraph that we only had one minute to learn. The limited rehearsal time restricted us to only remembering key words or statistics and encouraged us all to break the presentation into sizable chunks with a beginning, middle and end. By focussing on the ‘story’ of the topic, rather than the ‘lines’ of the presentation resulted in a surprisingly natural and more engaging way of presenting.”

Who are you looking at?

Matthew Usher, Operations Manager: “We were asked to practice using three different focus points when presenting, moving between three different stage positions.  This is a technique credited to an actor named Stanislavski.

Craig laid three sheets of paper numbered one to three and explained that each represented a different style of focus. When standing in position ‘one’ the presenter should adopt an introvert and almost reflective style, with no particular point of focus. Moving across the stage to position ‘two’ would trigger a more intimate and engaging focus where the presenter makes eye contact with individuals in the audience. Finally, at position ‘three’, the focus is broader and the presenter should be directing their speech to the back of the room. In this way, the presenter moves to different positions on the stage as they speak, adjusting their focus as they do so. It fascinated me that by simply altering your field of focus, you can create a much more confident and engaging presentation, using varied tones and projection levels depending on the size of your audience.”

I like to move it, move it

Karolina Throssell, Account Director: “For me, a key takeaway was the power of just simply moving around the stage more frequently as you present. So from a speaker’s point of view if you can move around – do. And from an event organiser’s point of view, try to avoid the standard ‘lectern style’ set up and encourage your speakers to move more freely around the stage to deliver more engaging presentations.

Craig also suggested that the formal mindset of ‘the presentation’ can make speakers more nervous. His advice? Instead of approaching presentations as a formal process, consider how you would deliver your content as if you were imparting your valuable and interesting knowledge or expertise to friends.”

Although our session with Hendrix The Dog Productions may not eliminate all our nerves – we’re only human after all – it has certainly given us some really useful tips that will come in handy. And we’ll certainly be putting what we learnt into practice on a daily basis.