Worried, nervous and tense, Sally* arrived at Lush recently for what she thought was a “media training session” with me.

The session had been organised by her media and communications department because they felt she needed help to communicate more effectively both in live presentations and in the media. In the end, it was much more complex and went far deeper than that.

I’ve used the term “startled rabbit” on numerous occasions to describe how people look when they walk into the radio studio. This was definitely a startled rabbit moment. Sally entered the room looking anxious.

Three-and-a-half hours later, Sally walked out a changed person.

Change the way you communicate forever

This wasn’t just a case of handing out some textbook tips — we took a far deeper dive into whom Sally is as a person and what she wanted to achieve. This was one of those truly amazing sessions, where you see someone’s potential change before your very eyes. Obviously, we touched on some media techniques and how to best communicate certain messages. But Sally left with a skip in her step, knowing that she now had the inner confidence and knowledge to change the way she communicated forever. Why? She knew how to use pace, tone and language — and the way she looked and felt — to powerful effect. She could now use those tools to change everything in her life, both personally and professionally.

Nearly 30 years ago now I completed my Masters in Psychology from Edinburgh University. Not a day has gone by without me using that in some form, and today it seems more relevant than ever before. Like anything, the more you do, the more you understand — and with this scenario, simply recognising where Sally’s blocks and opportunities might lie made all the difference.

And the reason is very simple: So much of our effectiveness in business comes down to our inner confidence. I’ve seen enough examples over the years (whether that’s in one of the 25,000 interviews I’ve carried out or one of the more than 500 training sessions I’ve hosted) to know that those who have that inner confidence are aware of what is expected of them and are able to communicate so much more effectively.

Smart communication skills are vital

Sadly, many people seem to be missing some really basic communication skills; namely, how to make great presentations and how to communicate with the media. Given that the majority of people I work with are in senior positions, the very idea they don’t have any training in that area is astonishing — especially given the importance of smart communication today. And yet, there is an assumption that just because you are in a senior position you must know how to do this well. Wrong!

When you’ve made a presentation, more than likely you’ve imitated others. You’ve seen how they put presentations together and then you’ve done your best to fit in. Generally speaking most of us are more comfortable when we don’t stand out, so we pick up all the bad habits of those who preceded us. And because employers see a pretty good performance, they don’t feel the need to develop those skills in their employees — even in their most senior ones.

The same can be said for dealing with the media. How on earth are you meant to know how to deliver prepared messages, stick to your agenda, tell stories, be concise, create a bridge out of awkward questions, and so on, without being taught? Just because you can hold a conversation does not mean you can handle the media. 

And so it was with Sally. I could see this huge pressure on her shoulders when she walked in. She knew she was lacking the skills. But I knew she had the expertise and knowledge. My job was to bring this out in her, so that not only could she perform well for the media but she would become more effective communicating with colleagues, stakeholders, peers and other important groups, too. 

It’s time to reprogram yourself to become more effective

I won’t detail the process here; it’s the outcome that’s important: With a little understanding and “reprogramming” — as is always the case — Sally’s eyes lit up, her whole demeanour changed, her tension subsided and her eagerness to get out there and perform became evident.

“I wish I’d been taught this twenty years ago,” she said. “My career would have been so different.”

I’d like to think there is a little magic at play: a deep understanding of what makes us what we are and what we might become. If all it takes is a few hours, what might you discover in Sally’s situation? Imagine a world where your inner confidence took you to places you’d never dreamed possible? Well, it does actually happen to some people. As we go in to the Christmas break, let that thought start to percolate!

If you’re interested in media and presentation training that can transform not just your career, but your inner confidence, contact the team at Lush Digital Media. Like what you’ve read? Sign up to the Lush newsletter for fortnightly advice to help you market your business better, tips from our video production gurus, and a podcast or two from our favourite podcasting team, Brand Newsroom. In the meantime, you might enjoy these:

The power of voice: how to deliver an amazing presentation

The art of public speaking [podcast with show notes]

5 tips to avoid crumbling on camera [short video]

How to get the talent right for your next video


*Name has been changed.