Thursday, 23 April 2009

Enterprise Week

Women in Business day.

The day was a fantastic experience in terms of business skills learnt but also life skills. A very large number of people attended, from all walks of life which added different experiences and opinions to generate a fascinating day. There were at least four successful business women who attended the event for more ideas. There were, of course students also. The range of topics covered by the women was extremely interesting and incredibly relevant. The opportunity presented itself as a fantastic way of meeting new people and networking.

The first speakers up were Penny Sloane and Kate Demain. They discussed impact management. Their target was to discuss how one can present oneself with confidence and credibility. They talked of ways to promote and enhance personal credibility through ‘impression and non verbal communication’. The workshop was great fun and a fantastic way of making us sit and talk to a group of people we didn’t know. It helped us to relax and chat comfortably. A very very interesting task we had to do involved us having to write down a word summing up the first impression we had of each of the people in our groups. Interestingly, the first impressions they had of me differed greatly to how I see myself and presume I project myself. I have always supposed I come across as friendly, open and confident. The general word that popped up was approachable... this, I feel I am but not what I go out of my way to project.

The women showed us a video discussing how quickly an interviewer decides whether or not they are going to hire someone. 3-5 seconds is all it takes to decide if a boss likes a prospective candidate or not! The situation of the video was a job interview involving three candidates with a completely different image. On a scale we could see how the impressions made during the initial stages of the interview were in fact the final decision and overall impression of that candidate. They told us, although it only takes between 3 and 5 seconds to make a first impression, it takes at least 12 further exposures to that person to alter the first impression.

The next speaker up was Susan Lock who talked about ‘powering up your presentations’. I, luckily, am not too apprehensive when it comes to public speaking. I find it thrilling rather than nerve racking. Before Susan started her presentation I was sure this wouldn’t be very useful to me, but really only beneficial for those scared of public speaking. How wrong I was! The information Susan provided us with was very constructive and positive for all future presentations I may have to make.

Susan Lock is the founder of HR and Training Consultancy, Key Consultants, based in Radnage, Buckinghamshire. With her years of experience, she delivered a fascinating presentation which changed how I have done presentations since. She went through each stage of a presentation, addressing the key information to include, in order to succeed and grasp the engagement and attention of the audience from the beginning. Susan used humour and anecdotes from the second she began, all of which related to her topics covered.

“A presentation is like a mini-skirt: it has to be short enough to get the attention, but long enough to cover the essentials."

Apparently, just 7% of a presentation’s effectiveness is the word content, 38% is voice projection and tone, and an astounding 55% come from the messages portrayed through body language and movement of the speaker. Susan gave us a format by which presentations should be addressed. In an ABCD format. A=Attention, B= Benefits c=credentials and D=Direction. Attention, gain it immediately. Benefits, what’s in it for the audience? Credentials, what makes the speaker qualified enough to be listened to? Direction, where is the topic going?

Both Susan and Penny tackled the importance of a professional first impression. Key elements of this image include being relaxed, this may be achieved through deep breaths; upright, position, the position of the head; movement of the speaker- avoid pacing as this can detract too much attention away from the presentation but do not stand completely still as it looks unnatural; and gesture making sure you make it relevant to you and the image you intend to portray. Finish the presentation in the position and area where you said positive points as the audience are more likely to adopt a positive image of the performance in comparison to standing in a spot where negatives issues were discussed.

The preceding speaker was Amanda Graham who discussed Creative thinking. This session gave us an insight into various methods of creative thinking techniques including: brainstorming, reverse brainstorming, SCAMPER: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify, and Put to other uses, Eliminate, Reverse/Rearrange, and random word processing. I found the reverse brain storming quite interesting and possibly relevant but the other methods discussed by Amanda seemed too abstract, confusing and disorganised for me and my way of thinking.

Caroline Kinsey was up next, who, as buck’s entrepreneur of the year, discussed Womenomics - The Rise and Rise of the Business Woman. Caroline discussed something which I felt was invaluable. So many women in the world of business feel under pressure to conform to masculine environment and thinking. She told us the only way to succeed is to embrace what it is that makes us different to men, and use it to our advantage. To embrace our femininity.

Caroline Kinsey shared her views and personal experience of building an award-winning PR agency, Cirkle PR and her new business, Trojan Training.

I found this talk so inspiring, especially Caroline’s emphasis on staff well being. It showed that the staff are at the centre of her business because at the end of the day, if the staff are happy more work is likely to be produced and to a much higher standard.

Caroline explained the key points involved in unlocking a successful business, these include recruitment, retention, training, culture, communication, feedback, reputation and finances.
A method of discovering one’s abilities is the Myers Briggs type indicator test, which I have previously discussed in my blog, as we were associated with a Simpsons character to explain what the results meant. Karen Taylor and Ann Mullard talked to us about the test and how to improve areas of weakness and utilise our strengths. The Myers-Briggs test shows the differences in people by where they prefer to focus their attention, the way they prefer to take in information, the way they prefer to make decisions and the kind of lifestyle they adopt. It helps to explain why all individuals are interested in different things, why they are good at different kinds of work, why some find it hard to communicate with each other and how to use these differences constructively.

The apprentice challenge!

The main event I took part in was the Bucks apprentice challenge. This event was quite intense but great fun and invaluable experience. The team, named ‘The Dream Team’, earned £300 in total, which meant that each team member walked away with £50 profit. The team got through the first round, but, unfortunately, didn't make enough profit in the second round to get through to the final stage.

The first challenge involved selling donuts on a campus of Bucks New Uni and making as substantial a profit as possible. We were presented with £50 which we used to buy the donuts and any other utilities we needed.

The second round involved setting up a market stall in the Eden Centre. We used the profit from the first round, and were given a further £200 to create a stall. We decided to sell hand decorated gingerbread men. This went down very well, but, regrettably, we over ordered on the gingerbread men, and we were unable to sell them all. This especially was a valuable lesson for me. Despite the stressful nature of the challenge, I learnt a great deal, had a fabulous time and made lots of friends. I’m already looking forward to entering next year!

1 comment:

Ruth Hickmott said...

The Women in Business day sounds amazing - wish I'd gone. Great reflection on the week