“Presenting can be such a daunting thing. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t enjoy it. We want our employees to have a positive experience at work and reach their full potential.”
Liz Pillans is the Talent Acquisition and Development Manager for Kenwood Ltd. Enhancing skills across a huge team, she’s helping the organisation tackle common presentation challenges. The outcome is changing communications at every level.
First established by Kenneth Wood in 1947, Kenwood is now owned by the DeLonghi Group. Selling countless brands worldwide, it employs around 250 people in theUK.
“Kenwood is an international organisation. Many of our employees interact and present to a wide range of internal and external stakeholders globally. This can be at many levels, both face to face and online,” said Liz.
When it came to presenting, Kenwood experienced a common challenge. And yet, they were ready to invest in their people, giving them tools to succeed.
Liz explained: “With lots of detailed information to present we often struggled to strike the right balance between what to put in a slide deck and what to say. Our challenge was to align these two aspects and create inspiring presentations.”
Liz also wanted to dial up everyone’s body language and voice skills during presentations. And she had the perfect place to start.
“We run our AllHands conferences twice a year. This involves senior leaders and others presenting to huge audiences. It’s a big deal for us so we wanted to take our skills to the next level.
Having previously used a more traditional presentation skills trainer, I wanted to try something different. Alex’s ability, and Improv4Business, really struck me.
He’s from an acting background. They’re experts at using their voice and body language when presenting. I also liked the sound of his improvisation work, it seemed like afresh approach,” she said.
Liz first hiredImprov4Business to run bespoke presentation training for a small group of people ahead of the All Hands conference. Given this training took place during the pandemic, it included both face to face and online skills.
Well received, the training had an immediate impact on presentation quality during the conference. This led to further training commitments, rolling it out to further employees across the Kenwood team.
Liz explained how she shaped the training programme to meet Kenwood’s needs: “Initially, I looked at the open programmes Improv4Business offers and discussed our specific needs with Alex. In this instance, we wanted to focus on our marketing teams being able to tell the story behind a product. This was key for us.
With a mixed level of skills and experience in the group, we also wanted to include one-to-one feedback and coaching. Everyone could reflect on their own strengths and identify areas for personal improvement. This would ensure each team member got the most out of the programme.”
Having identified50 people for the programme, they were broken into smaller groups. Overall, everyone saw the coaching opportunity as a valuable addition to the programme, providing the chance to gain personal feedback.
“There are always people who feel apprehensive about presenting in front of others. But Alex has such a great way of helping people relax and bringing fun into the training. In the event, nobody felt nervous at all,” said Liz.
On day one of the training, the groups learnt how to create effective presentations, using stories for impact. They also improved their PowerPoint skills and critiqued existing slide decks.
Day two started with a workshop focusing on voice and body language skills, involving a series of fun improvisation activities too. One-to-one sessions followed, covering the individual’s anxieties and coaching areas for personal development.
Happy with how the programme went, Liz was particularly pleased with everyone’s learning around improving visuals.
“We wanted to get people over the need to rely on visuals to convey their message. Whilst slides exist to support you, they shouldn’t be there to read off. Most people understand this but don’t know how to move away from it.
Also, practicing improvisation helped everyone confidently think on their feet, because you never know what the audience will ask next, or when technology might fail you.
Overall, the team learnt that they are the most important thing about the presentation – not the technology. And they left the training feeling far more confident and able about this,” she said.
Everyone has different skills and experience when it comes to presenting. So, it was important for Kenwood to enable one-to-one support, whether for a newly recruited team member or a senior leader.
Liz explained how this worked in practice: “Getting personal feedback is so important because how we see ourselves presenting can be quite different to how others see us.Holding that mirror up is incredibly valuable.
With his experience, Alex picked up on nuances and small details others might not spot. Adapting them would make a dramatic difference to your performance. Critiquing, not just your slides, but your personal delivery is an important part of the learning process.”
During their one-to-one time, each team member started to build their own action plan withAlex, making the training more personal and effective for them.
Liz has a clear point of view when it comes to important life skills like presenting. And the impact, she says, should be twofold.
“At Kenwood, we want people who feel happy and confident being themselves when presenting.We’re not looking to churn out presenters with the same tone of voice, we want to bring out everyone’s personality.
In achieving this, the biggest benefit is to peoples’ mental wellbeing. Some get wound up and stressed ahead of an important presentation. It can feel like a lot of pressure. So, we must give them the skills to flourish and feel confident about it,” she said.
Of course, there’s an organisational benefit to developing presentation skills too. Since the Impov4Business training Kenwood is experiencing it.
“Our team is really happy. Presentations are more structured with impactful slides. Everyone is now partnering with what people are saying, not just reading off slides.There’s a real appetite to continue improving too.
Personally, I saw the All Hands presentations and they nailed it in terms of what we were hoping from that training,” said Liz.
Liz has found a productive partnership to help transform Kenwood presentation skills and she intends to use it well. Whilst the team embed their recent learning and raise their game, Liz is pondering where else Improv4Business could support them.
“I definitely want to use Alex again for other teams and projects. Particularly if we’ve got a big event coming up with important presentations. He could train and coach the presenters to help them maximise their impact.
We’ll also continue to run role-specific programmes across the business. Alex is very accommodating, and people respond to him well. I can’t sing his praises highly enough,”concluded Liz.
The following are just a handful of the clients we have had the honour of working with over the years.