At the end of last term, students at Reading University were fortunate enough to attend a ‘Presentation Skills’ workshop from TV’s Judi James. She is one of the UK’s leading body language experts who has worked on programmes such as Xtra Factor, BBC News and The Paul O’Grady Show. The lecture came as part of the Careers Centre’s ‘Mind the Gap’ programme, which aims to equip students with the professional skills they need to enter the workplace. As a former catwalk model, Judi knows a thing or two about presentation, and her highly sought-after advice has been used in campaigns for Google, Virgin Airways and Chanel.
Judi started the presentation by announcing to her audience that her aim of the evening was to persuade each and every one of us that we are charismatic, which will be our most valuable asset when giving a presentation. She went on to clarify that by charisma, she did not mean overbearing arrogance, but rather a kind of authentic, contagious confidence which makes other people feel good about themselves. She told us that growing up, she had been a very shy child, so she understood how the idea of giving a presentation would push some people outside of their comfort zones. She provided some helpful tips and tricks on how to present effectively.
She suggested that, in order to appear calm and collected, students should start their presentations by finding a ‘power pose’. This is a stance that is comfortable enough to stand in for the duration of the presentation, with your shoulders back, head up and legs at an equal distance apart, allowing your arms to move freely. This is particularly important as body language signals are key when conveying confidence to an audience, and in order to appear authentic, all angles of your body language, from your hands to your eyes, should be conveying the same message. She cited Barack Obama as the best example of someone with strong, powerful body language, as he makes great use of the ‘invisible brick’ gesture: he stands with his palms apart and facing each other to emphasise his point.
However, British Politicians did not fare so well, with many, such as Boris Johnson, using splayed-out gestures, sitting with his legs apart, all as a show of bravado and others, such as Cameron and Clegg, using ‘power patting’ as a passive aggressive way of attempting to ‘one up’ each other. Furthermore, Judi suggested that women in particular should be sure to not ‘self-diminish’ by using baby voices or ‘cutesy’ gestures which would undermine the importance of the message they want to convey.
Undoubtedly, the evening was a roaring success for the Careers Centre and an extremely enlightening experience for the students and staff who attended. For more information about Judi, check out her website: www.judi-james.com, or to book your place on further Careers events, check out www.reading.ac.uk/careers/myjobsonline and login with your RISIS details.