Chapter 10 Guidance to answering the practical exercises

Persuasive oral communication and presentations

Q1. What do you do in terms of body language that you need to pay attention to? What effect might this have on your communication skills?

Body language is important. It can make you appear nervous, bored or hostile. In contrast it can also make you appear confident, interested and approachable. Next time you are in a lecture, focus on your lecturer’s body language. What are they doing? Does what they are doing help or hinder your experience a student? Do you think they are aware of it? Should they be? You should re-read before reflecting on this question. This is a good exercise in self-awareness. Record yourself, watch yourself in a mirror or ask a good friend to help you answer it. We all do something which can be distracting to others, and awareness of it is the first step towards remedying it if necessary.

Q2. What is your preferred learning style? What would you do in a presentation to make sure you appealed to those in the audience who have a different learning style from you?

Consider how your lecturers may use a combination of pre-reading, podcasts and video recordings, deliver lectures and accompany them with visual aids and in-class tasks to ensure that there is something to appeal to every student, whatever their learning style. Take a moment to reflect on which you learn most from. That should indicate your preferred learning style. I like to watch something first to get an overview, without taking any notes, but simply listening and absorbing the information, then I drill into the detail through reading. I feel a little lost when listening to a presenter who does not use visual aids. On the other hand, I need the visual aids to be manageable and not simply a slide show which would be better on a handout (so I have adequate time to read and digest the content). I like to draw diagrams, and I appreciate it when others use well-thought-out diagrams and infographics to explain things to me too. This all suggests my preferred learning style is visual learner. I also know that when I need to process complex information, doing so while swimming, running or gardening can help enormously. When I present, I need to think about how I can appeal more to those who learn by listening, or doing during my presentaion. Recording podcasts, for example, or setting interactive MCQ questions which students can answer by smartphone apps like Cahoot during lectures, or having breakout time for tasks, will help those attending my presentation who have different preferred learning styles to me.

Q3. Who do you admire for their communication skills? Can you articulate precisely what it is that they do that you admire? Is this transferable into what you do now, as a student, or will do later, as a professional?

At the time of writing, Ant and Dec had won Best Entertainment Presenters at the National Television Awards no less than nineteen times, so let’s consider them. They rarely make mistakes, despite the high volume of live TV appearances they make. They look to the right camera, appear to be able to make spontaneous, relevant and timely jokes, stand in the right place and don’t fluff their lines, all while looking relaxed, approachable, energetic and jovial and presenting as their authentic selves. I imagine some of their presenting style is transferable to the professions; in particular how to present authentically. Students can struggle with the transition from student life into a professional environment, and I think it can help simply to aim to present the most polished version of yourself. Remember, too, that most presenters who manage ‘spontaneity’ very well tend to do so through experience and lots of practice and rehearsing; that too is something professionals would do well to emulate. Personally, Professor Winterton’s presenting style has certainly inspired me, and I discuss this in Question 4.

Q4. If you can, find and watch all or some of the The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2018, presented by Professor Jeanette Winterson (referred to in Further Reading), which is 45 minutes long. (For example if you have Box of Broadcasts, at the time of writing you can find it here: The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 22:45 06/06/2018, BBC1 London, 45 mins. Reflect on the effectiveness of Professor Winterson’s communication skills to influence and have her message heard. What does she do to engage and inspire her audience? How is she remembering the content of her presentation? What else about her presentation strikes you, in particular having read this chapter?

I watch this from time to time, and particularly when I have a big presentation to deliver. It reminds me to practice what I preach in Chapter 10, because, even though I do not necessarily agree with everything Professor Winterson says, I really want to…and I enjoy every minute of it. It is a joy to see her speaking so authentically, and she engages her audience with her passion. She uses body language and eye contact well, and there is some well-placed humour. There are no scripts or card prompts, and it is all the better for it. Silences are used well. She appears confidence and spontaneous. Her audience’s needs have clearly been at the forefront of her mind both before and while delivering this engaging presentation.

Q5. Watch Lady Hale delivering her summary of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Miller case (which you read in Chapter 7) here: Reflect on the effectiveness of Lady Hale’s communication skills to influence and have her message heard. In what way does Lady Hale’s presentation style differ from Professor Winterson’s, and why might this be?

This question was to encourage you to consider how the context of the presentation influences the style of the presenter. While Lady Hale’s authenticity shines through, the context of delivering a Supreme Court judgment calls for a different style to that of Professor Winterton. Clarity remains important for her audience, entertainment is not. Consider how her pace and tone are commensurate with the context. And did you notice the brooch?

Q6. Watch, and reflect on, Emma Watson’s presentation to the UN, on women and leadership at university, here: What can you learn from this? In what way does her presentation style differ from Lady Hale’s, and Dr Winterson’s, and why might this be?

Professor Winterson and Lady Hale are professional presenters with lots of experience. I imagined it would be helpful to watch accomplished actor Emma Watson experience - and overcome - her nervousness during this presentation. I would encourage you to read the rest of the hyperlinked article (by Ros and Neil Johnson - see Further Reading) for their useful hints and tips on overcoming a fear of public speaking, or glossophobia.

Q7.Read and reflect on Luke Johnson’s reaction to his business’ collapse (see Unwin, Further Reading). How, if at all, does this inform your chosen approach to making presentations in practice as a lawyer?

Example 6 (Café Catherine) was obviously inspired by the real-life example of Patisserie Valerie. The fate of the company is explored at 15.1.1, and again in Chapter 18 to give you some valuable insight as to how a graduate employer can test your commercial awareness. I asked you to read the Unwin article to drive home how important it is to consider the full spectrum of need, when considering what your audience needs. We cannot deliver advice that is rose-tinted, just to save our client’s feelings. Our objectivity in assessing and advising on risk is valuable, and what the client pays us for. However, the article makes clear just how vulnerable clients may be feeling. Even when our client is a corporation, those instructing us are people with human feelings and fears. A skilled lawyer will have learned the importance of being flexible in approach to deliver the right message in a way that is heard, but which takes account of feelings (whatever they may be – fear, denial, depression).

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