On 11th February 2015, Women in Defence hosted an event for 20 senior and rather apprehensive looking women from across the defence and security industry at RADA Studios. We had been told to wear comfortable clothing and that we may need to take our shoes off, so I don’t think I was alone in having visions of being asked to do something embarrassing.
We were welcomed in with delicious canapés and drinks, giving us time to meet each other and network and wonder together what was in store for us. We were then invited into one of the studios and given an introduction to RADA in Business and an excellent explanation of what an acting school has to offer to businesses: we use our voices and our body every day as our main way of communicating, yet we are not formally taught how to use it during formal education or on the job. This has particular significance for how women can develop their presence and have more impact in the workplace.
We had a group discussion about some of the challenges we face as women in our workplaces, and we agreed that at the root of most of these challenges was lack of confidence: for example not being heard in meetings, not being taken seriously and being overlooked. With that in mind, we were all set for the highlight of the evening, a sample of RADA in Business’ Executive Presence training led by one of the RADA in Business tutors, Sheelagh McNamara who leads their Executive Presence for Woman course.
Sheelagh had us on our feet and participating from early in the session: starting by walking round the room introducing ourselves at increasing levels of energy. This helped us to understand the effects of how we present ourselves, and how much better it feels to be near the top of the scale. We all tried out our ‘Obama walks’ – one to be tested back in the workplace! We were doing everything together, so there was no room for embarrassment, even when ‘shaking it like Beyoncé’.
We were given a number of memorable tricks and tools to give our voices greater resonance and impact. We were amazed by the difference in sound we made by making a few small and simple changes in how we prepare to speak. Sheelagh took us through some of the techniques that help women to build personal presence and have the impact they desire and showed us some performance exercises that make the difference.
We all finished the session with a new found energy and confidence, keen to be ourselves, more, with our new found skills back in the office.