Last week the whole team attended a special training day run by Dramatic Resources on presentation skills. This week’s blog talks about the many tips and skills we learnt throughout the day!
The rarity of AKU means that a large part of our role is to raise awareness, particularly among healthcare professionals. Team members regularly attend scientific conferences, meetings and events and are continually networking to raise awareness of AKU and talk about all the fantastic work the society does. Presenting our work to large audiences is another great way to raise awareness and last week’s training day was a fantastic way to learn new skills and really focus on the ultimate goal: to engage the audience!

The training day was run by Richard Hahlo, an actor and founder of Dramatic Resources. It was great to get training from someone in the performing arts, as it gave us a completely new perspective and reminded us that acting is an important part of daily life.

Acting is really no different to what we all do in real life: you dress differently and behave differently when you’re with your parents, a girl, at a funeral….. but you’re still you. It’s an altered part of yourself; you’re performing in some way – Dustin Hoffman, actor

We started the day with a few introduction exercises. We were paired up and asked to count to 3, with numbers replaced by actions. The exercise demonstrated the balance between our brain and our instinct. At first, we had to engage the brain to learn the number-action interaction. Once we had learnt this, the routine became more of an instinct and there were far fewer errors. The brain-instinct balance became a common theme throughout the day and really emphasised the importance of being in the present while giving presentations.

Throughout the day, we were all invited to get up and give our own presentations to the group. It was amazing to see how nerves and tension increased when people were asked to stand in front of the group and present.

The day I lose my stage fright is the day I stop acting – Lawrence Olivier, actor

Richard taught us different techniques to channel this nervous energy, stressing the importance of breathing, pausing and slowing down the pace of the talk. We were also taught techniques for engaging our audience and really making them listen and act on what we say. These techniques included eye contact, energy, passion, humour, contrasts, empathy and imagery.

Engaging the audience was a key part of the training day. Audiences at conferences tend to hear presentations on a regular basis and it is crucial to make yours stand out from the crowd. One of the ways Richard got us to do this was through the use of personal stories. We were asked to tell a personal story and then relate this story to our presentation topic.

One member of the team discussed his visit to South Africa, where his project involved searching for the tiny Cape bulbul bird. He related this personal experience to his presentation, by using this Cape bulbul as a metaphor for the rare disease. The personal story and the imagery created by this story made the whole presentation far more memorable and powerful.

The whole day was a lot of fun and got us to think of new and exciting ways to engage the audience. We left the training feeling inspired to really make an impact with our presentations and motivate the audience to act on what we are saying.