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Training with Team Three Pair

Learning the finer points of presenting

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Many people think that presentation skills come naturally. For some lucky people this is true, but for the rest of us mere mortals presenting is a daunting minefield of rights and wrongs.

To help us out with our lack of natural talent, the guys down at Microsoft UK organised for us to take part in a two day speaker training session organised by Melita Walton and delivered by Alan Elston of leading edge presentations.

Aside from Andy, who seems to love the buzz of presenting, the rest of the team were a little nervous. There were eight people on the course, including ourselves, and each of the other attendees had far more experience than any of us. This was going to be an interesting two days.

First things first, an introduction, we each had to stand up and give a very brief summary of who we were and what presenting experience we had. Throughout the day we gave a total of around seven presentations, during each of which Alan gave out some great pointers and helped us to really overcome some of the things holding us back.

Everyone on the course was great and not only did we learn a lot we had a laugh too. Mark Quirk, the team's life coach, had popped along for the first day. He helped out by giving us feedback and reviewing some of the presentation videos. It was good to meet up with him as later in the month he's going to be giving us some technical presentation training, who knows, by the end of all this training we might be half decent.

As the first day came to a close we were getting really tired. It's amazing how tiring training can be, or is that just because we're students? At the very end Alan gave us all a little homework to do for the following morning. We each had to prepare an eight minute presentation on a business topic of our choosing. Of course, for us it had to be the Digital Recovery Environment, so that night we set about preparing some new material to deliver based on the new persona driven development we'd worked on the day before. By 1am we had all gone to bed ready for the next day's intense presentation training.

Day two: We headed back to Thames Valley Park for the final session. Everyone arrived promptly and Alan kicked off the show by making us all stand up and explain what we got out of the previous day and what we wanted out of today's session. Four or five presentations and a tonne of useful information later, we were ready to deliver our eight minute presentations.

We were last to present as our three person structure meant a lot of pausing and tape changing, and the whole thing was split up onto our individual videos for feedback purposes. We delivered the presentation to the group and got some really useful encouragement and criticisms back from everyone.

Alan gave us some pointers on how we should best structure our presentation for the final, with tips on how to control the mood and feelings of the judges. With the presentations over, Alan wrapped up the session with more encouraging comments, everyone exchanged business cards - networking at its best - and we were free to leave.

The whole experience was very positive, we all got a lot of benefit out of it and feel a lot happier with having to present. Looking back to before the training it's hard to imagine presenting in the way we used to It just seems wrong now. With the visit to Microsoft over we headed off into Reading, had a few drinks and finally headed back to the hotel to get a good night's sleep before the train journey home.®

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