‘My impressions of… personal impact training’
Hannah Daley, project leader at the Science Museum shares her thoughts and experiences of the Theatreworks Personal Impact open course.
As someone who is often in front of people at my job, I am very comfortable speaking about topics I am familiar with and know a lot about. I’m not daunted talking to funders or potential donors about our latest exhibitions or initiatives, but when it comes to presenting on the fly or speaking about areas I’m less familiar with, I am definitely less confident.
When I learned I would be joining one of my colleagues on a Theatreworks open course on personal impact, I was both nervous and intrigued. Having never done any theatre-based training or anything like theatre since an arts GCSE, I had no idea what to expect. Based on the course description, I knew there would be opportunities to face some of my fears about public speaking, as well as to make my presentations more impactful. I looked forward (with some trepidation) to working on using my voice to great effect – something I’ve never been entirely comfortable doing.
My colleague and I discussed in advance that though it might feel a bit uncomfortable working together on the course, we wanted to get the most out of it, so we agreed to fully immerse ourselves in the training on the day. I am so glad I did.
Walking into the rehearsal room on the morning of the training, my butterflies were quickly calmed. The facilitators Al and Sarah expertly disarmed everyone by doing a series of warm-up exercises that reminded me of a children’s party (in a good way!), making the room feel like a safe place to experiment, experience and, well, rehearse.
We were all definitely out of our comfort zones, but fairly quickly we were united by a shared intimacy in taking part. Without wanting to give too much away, I found an exercise where we had to make the most of our voices by projecting to our partners at increasing distances one of the most effective. Funnily enough, the further away we got, the less our voices mattered and the more our body language, stance and gestures played a role in communicating – the distance forced us to be more engaged in the listening and delivering elements of the conversation.
The course spoke to my desire to work on my voice and I was able to apply everything I’d learned to the final ‘performance’ at the end of the day, really feeling like I had conquered my fear of sounding ‘mousey’. Interestingly, when applying the skills to dramatic delivery, I was able to put more gravitas behind it and speak more from my ‘belly’, but when I practiced a more work-related presentation, I felt the pitch of my voice rise and my nerves return. A key takeaway from the course was how to calm these fears – to take the time in advance to be present – taking two deep breaths and gathering my thoughts before delivering a presentation.
There was an intimacy we achieved in taking part in the course and exposing our vulnerabilities that I felt really helped us to learn, especially when we were doing role-play related activities. I was surprised at how able I was to be silly and get ‘up close and personal’ with a room full of virtual strangers. We all supported and learned from each other and willed each other to succeed, creating a positive energy that filled the room.
While that energy may not be as strong when I’m presenting to audiences large and small for work, thriving on it has definitely stayed with me. I’ve come to realise that no one is willing me to fail when I get up and speak; the people I’m presenting to want –at the very least – to learn something from me and are very likely looking to engage with and even support me. This has worked wonders for my confidence in speaking both on and off ‘script’.
I’m already singing the praises of Theatreworks to my colleagues and can’t wait to take part in the next Influence & Rapport Open Course.