“You can be a powerful and influential presence…but like most people you probably have never had the chance to exercise your communication muscles.”
On a swelteringly hot Saturday in June, Innovation Forum Oxford continued the ACE Saturdays workshop series with a session focussed on influence and personal pitching led by Sarah McCloughry from STEMM commercial. A packed room experienced Sarah’s engaging presence first-hand and learnt how to apply skills drawn from both business and the stage to their own aspirations.
The day began with a session on how to identify your audience. Working from the expectations of those in the room and the importance of placing the receiver at the heart of your planning were emphasised as the bedrock of a successful pitch. The focus of the session then moved to understanding how to best reach and impact the key people in the room: are they from academia, industry or the general public; are they experts or generalists? Sarah guided participants in tailoring their communication style to be more effective and memorable—acknowledging how quickly information is forgotten and learning how to make sure the important points you convey are the 10% of information that your audience actually remembers in a month’s time!
The workshop continued with attendees concentrating on identifying tangible goals that they wanted to achieve in their professional communication: what did they want their audience to think or do as a result of the presentation? After all, hitting a bullseye is easier once you actually know what the target looks like. With these goals in mind Sarah began guiding the room in thinking about which verbal and non-verbal tool they could utilise to be persuasive and maximise the chance of success.
Lively discussion peppered the workshop and potential hurdles were confronted head-on: how to best deal with nerves (sage advice drawn from Sarah’s stage experience helped a lot here); how to balance cultural expectations of enthusiasm, engagement and trust; and practical advice on effortlessly beginning and ending meaningful professional conversations. Through roleplaying and rapid rounds of feedback attendees started to build their own personal brands—developing a powerful and trustworthy presence.
The latter half of the session turned to technology and how to best leverage social media when strengthening a personal brand. The digital theme was extended over a working lunch by Stephen Eyre and Emma Procter-Legg from Oxford University’s IT Services. Together Stephen and Emma shared tips and best practice for how to match an online persona to the professional presence being crafted offline.
The day’s activities ended with the opportunity for participants to record a two-minute pitch—putting together all they had learnt and giving them a personal pitch to share online or to act as a resource for individual reflection and learning. Participants left the workshop with new techniques added to their professional toolkit and boosted confidence. At the close of the day, we were all challenged by a key quote from Carl W. Bueher:
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”