Making a play for success

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The Independent Online
PO-FACED businessmen in pin-stripe suits hardly seem promising raw material for polishing by theatre directors and actors, but skills from the performing arts are highly relevant to business, according to Maynard Leigh Associates, which runs courses training business people to put a message across to an audience.

Michael Maynard, a professional actor and a familiar face in such TV series as Bergerac and Minder, says the aim is not to turn business people into actors but to impart skills that lift their presentations from the mediocre to the dynamic.

Everyone attending a course brings a presentation, which is videoed and analysed. 'We affirm what is good and then look at where they could be more creative,' Mr Maynard says.

The course concentrates on the five P's - preparation, purpose, presence, passion and personality.

Personality is important, Mr Maynard says. Even affable people can freeze in a presentation. 'If you want to make an impact, you must be yourself and not put on a mask.'

Preparation means warming up the voice and building the right mental attitude. A presenter has to be excited about the message. Purpose is about deciding the effect the speaker wants to have on the audience. According to Mr Maynard, there is a greater range of emotional expression available than most people use.

Passion means conviction; the audience will not care if you do not. And presence is the building of a dynamic relationship with the audience.

Heady stuff for the average bean counter. But accolades from such clients as the Body Shop, Bankers Trust and Dunbar Bank have poured in.

Ian Cox, the treasurer of Dunbar Bank, a subsidiary of Allied-Dunbar Assurance, said he gained confidence and learned much. Not normally an enthusiast of courses, he found the Maynard Leigh two-day course had a significant impact on his effectiveness in talking to client groups of up to 50. 'It has helped the business and the bottom line,' he said.

Tony Hatton-Gore, the head of employee relations at the Stock Exchange, was similarly positive. He admitted to actually enjoying his last two speaking engagements since going on the course - and just hoped his audiences did too.

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