School of Business staff hit the stage to improve their work performance

Posted by pm357 at Mar 27, 2018 11:15 AM |
Academic and Professional Services staff at the University of Leicester School of Business (ULSB) will be hitting the stage to help build their resilience, grow in confidence and improve their communication, presentation and interpersonal skills at the enAct workshop on Wednesday 28 March, developed in partnership between the School and Leicester’s Curve theatre.

Curve is a state-of-the-art theatre based in the heart of Leicester. Almost one million people a year engage with Curve through performances and projects in Leicester, across the UK and internationally. Curve has developed a reputation for producing, programming and touring a bold and diverse programme of musicals, plays, new work, dance and opera. All of this is presented alongside a dynamic mix of community engagement, artist development and learning programmes, which firmly places audiences, artists and communities at the heart of everything they do.

ULSB Associate Professors, Dr Andrea Davies and Dr Angus Cameron explain what the enAct workshop is all about:

What is enAct and how are you involved?

AD: “enAct is a joint venture co-delivered by senior ULSB academics (myself and Angus) and professional actors hired by Curve on a sessional basis (Yolanda Vazquez and Caroline Kilpatrick). It is a workshop that helps improve participants’ confidence and communication skills by learning about voice and performance techniques.”

What happens on the day?

AD: “All sorts of lovely things. The course is challenging, but (we hope) also fun. It consists of a series of practical exercises which we all do together, interspersed with reflections from course staff relating the exercises to real-life situations. The course is informal, but also quite fast-paced and, at over 4 hours long, physically and emotionally demanding.”

Where did the idea come from?

AC: “The initial idea came about 6 years ago from my experience of PhD students being ill-prepared for their viva-voce exam (a verbal defence of their thesis helping to demonstrate their ability to participate in academic discussion with research colleagues). However good their written thesis might be, without a confident vocal performance in the viva they were sometimes compromised. At that time no vocal/performance training was available to our PhD students, despite the voice being one of the most important tools used by all staff every day.

“Andrea had been working separately on voice and performance over a long period, bridging with academic work through looking at branding, orality and market place performances. We shared the same view that there was a lack of voice and performance training for staff who are increasingly front of house, in lectures, on the phone, talking to students, talking to the media or making podcasts and videos.

“We also knew that bringing voice and performance techniques into everyday working contexts can reduce stress and bring confidence and resilience.

“In addition to initially developing the training programme for PhD students we have also run versions of the course with academic departments and with mixed groups of university staff from academic, professional services and the leadership team. In developing the course we have been supported by grants from the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Teaching Development Fund and the University’s Prospects Fund.”

How did the link between ULSB and the Curve develop?

AC: “The link with Curve arose from an invitation from a Director in Residence at Curve (Julia Davies - part of an outreach programme from the Young Vic) who was looking for interesting links with the University. After an initial meeting between myself and Julia, joint discussions began to explore how our complimentary work and approaches could create something new and innovative.  This connected to work Curve were already doing – led by David Ross and Alex Bliss – providing training courses for corporate clients. From those initial conversations the course took shape, oriented towards two particular markets: Higher Education Institutions looking to upskill student-facing staff (i.e. faculty and professional services) and private companies wanting to improve (among other things) staff communication skills.”

Why are these workshops important and how do they help staff?

AD: “The workshops are important because almost all employer surveys across all sectors of the UK report that communication and interpersonal skills are a particular problem. Although many organisations report this deficit, few have the capacity to develop in-house training of their own. enAct specifically seeks to address these issues, but in an holistic way that is as much about the whole person as it is about the workplace.

“Although the primary focus is on opening up the multiple dimensions of ‘voice’ (physical, vocal, written, gestural, emotional, etc.), and 'body' (physical voicing, intentionality/tactics, and presence) aspects of the course reach far beyond that – for example, dealing with tension, stress, wellbeing and resilience. Inevitably different people get different things from the course, but the feedback we’ve had to date is overwhelmingly and enthusiastically positive including from those who have previously had voice training.

“Most recently we have been working with the senior management team of a large corporation based in the city who report that their experience of enAct has been transformational.”

Have you noticed a difference in staff following the workshops?

AC: “Very definitely. Participants report greater confidence, improved voice and performance skills (e.g. in lectures, vivas, public addresses, customer interactions, leading meetings and managing difficult work situations etc.). What is also great is that almost everyone reports improved well-being.”

Do you have further plans to develop the workshops?

AC: “Over the past year the original shape and content of the course has been refined in light of experience and client feedback. We are currently developing additional courses in response to client requests. enAct is growing and developing as we work with new and existing clients. As such we are looking to have other colleagues join us in delivering an exhilarating and rewarding form of experiential learning. If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch.”

What is some of the feedback you have had?

“The nicest training session I’ve ever done in CPD. Energetic and engaging, full of tips and ideas, welcoming and friendly organisers who really know their stuff, and a great environment at the Curve.”

“I have become more confident in myself and my performance has greatly improved from just using some of the useful tips from the training.”