The evening began with anticipation as the workshop was described as a ‘practical, interactive and playful session.’ I’m always one for being a team player, but something told me this would not be a regular workshop. I arrived flustered as the directions as to where the workshop was wasn’t particularly great, and only happened to stumble upon the workshop by tip-toeing into a large building to ask for directions. The workshop was run by Jude Clayborne (photo above), she is an actress, writer, facilitator and linguist. The workshop was help by Academy at the Hub who hold workshops, classes and events to develop and support entrepreneurs.
After finally finding my feet I found that I was 1 of 5 people which resulted in a very personal workshop. It was great to see that there were people from different professions wanting to better their skills at public speaking. Jude, the workshop leader was fantastic at making everyone feel relaxed and immediately put me at ease.
The first exercise we did in the workshop was to introduce ourselves and explain why we were there, and what happens when we speak publicly. This was actually really interesting and nice to hear why other people were also there. This also allowed Jude to understand what sort of problems we faced. My favourite exercise seemed extremely unorthodox and felt (at first) really silly. We stood in a circle and with direction yelled quotes from a very retro Eastenders cast. Quotes included “Get out of my pub” (pretend pint pulling included) various Phil Mitchell impersonations and “Ricky!”. A variation of “Wellard!” was discussed, but never used (unfortunately). The yelling was structured in such a way that one quote was in reply to another. It was sort of a ‘round robin’ game in which we had to be on our toes. This exercise allowed each of us to accept that mistakes could be made without persecution and were in fact in this exercise celebrated! Doing this as a first exercise was like jumping in the deep end (literally) most of our deep fears of Speaking Publicly (Looking silly) was being shoved into the limelight. Although daunting, it was really affirming and helpful.
The most helpful exercise was when we were instructed to harness a particular energy, for example pretending as if you’re speaking as an Evangelical Christian, speaking to young children or a being secret gossip. We first practiced using this energy in a bombastic, almost over the top way, which was then followed by using the same energy but in a less obvious way. This technique seemed to inset a sort of energy into the way we spoke in which we found comfortable and helpful. Each person had a different technique which was highlighted for each person.
When one speaks publicly, one always appears to be afraid that the worst is going to happen, that they are going to get eaten alive, that they (heaven forbid) make a mistake and look silly. One (of many) thing(s) I learned is that there is nothing wrong with looking silly – It’s not the end of the world.
The rest of the workshop was spent finding and then harnessing a particular method that enabled us to speak publicly with diction, heartfelt enthusiasm and a secret energy. Everyone had a different method, and a workshop with a small number of participants allowed us to work with Jude to identify it. Some parts of the workshop had a Mr. Miyagi moment, at which at first one thinks ‘why on earth am I doing this’ only to have it unravel at a later point, showing how important and poignant that particular exercise was.
Overall, the workshop was enlightening and most definitely helpful. Jude’s personality and nature really helped the workshop become a learn and play exercise. I feel like I was able to take away some really useful tips from this workshop. That you shouldn’t be afraid to make a mistake, we are all human and can’t deliver spotless, perfect speeches or pitches (yet). That imagination will take you further than you think, visualising that big lump in your throat dissolving will actually make it feel like it has disappeared. Having a secret energy that allows to you speak easily and energetically about your subject will do wonders to relax you and enable to you speak efficiently and comfortably. But most of all, posture and warming up your muscles will make a huge change! It was a wonderfully different workshop which was most certainly worth the energy and effort put in.