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Pilar Orti

VIrtual not Distant

Director

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Book review: Power presentation

speech_notes

Pilar Orti reviews 'Power Presentation – formal speech in an informal world' by Patsy Rodenburg and suggests that those serious about communication should read a copy.

Patsy Rodenburg’s voice work is well-respected in the theatre industry. In 'Power Presentation', she clearly describes the path to successful communication (and self-presentation) by connecting body, breath, voice and intent. What I like most about this book is that makes no apology for not offering a 'quick-fix' to mastering communication.

Rodenburg insists on the importance of setting aside time to work consistently on releasing the body’s tensions and exercising your breath muscles. She also makes clear that not all exercises will work for everyone and that achieving full potential is a personal, ongoing journey: “When an exercise works, you might need it for the rest of your life.”

As in her book ‘Presence’, Patsy Rodenburg introduces the concept of striving to be in the 'second circle' when speaking– what in acting terms is referred to as 'being present' or 'in the moment'. The body is relaxed (but not casual) and “...you are connected to yourself and the world around you”. However, if you find yourself in 'first circle', you will have withdrawn into yourself and in 'third circle', you will be pushing out into the world. This simplification is used throughout the book and makes it easy to understand when or why we might be knocked off-centre.

The first part of the book consists of a series of exercises looking at body, breath, voice and speech, in that order, pretty much in the same way a classical actor begins their training. The second part of the book is composed of short sections on presentation, meetings, negotiations, selling, interviews and bad news/good news. None of them are dealt with in depth but they include some interesting tips and observations. They provide good examples of how the work described in part one can be applied to professional life.

The book is worth buying if you intend to put some time aside to improve your self-presentation or if you feel like you need to strengthen your voice. If you have never come across this type of work, then you will need plenty of time to go through the exercises and pace yourself through the book. Most of the exercises require a private, comfortable space (there is a lot of floor-work involved) but Rodenburg knows her readership so she also has plenty of exercises that can be done in small areas, prior to presentations or important meetings. If you are familiar with this kind of work, it is still worth a read as it will take you back to basics – and if you have a vivid imagination, just reading through might induce some tension release!

If presenting in front of people makes you very anxious, then I suggest you begin by using the book and then consult a voice coach to check that you are on the right track. What is clear in all of Rodenburg’s books is her firm belief that everyone can be an engaging speaker if the voice is released. Throughout the book, there are short anecdotes about people the author has worked with, giving it a personal touch. Repetition of this kind of work is key in order for it to become second nature.

The book makes very clear that we cannot think of the voice as separate from the body: “The voice is housed in the body and powered by the breath” and their connection can never be ignored. Just as you can’t ignore the connection between body, breath, voice, speech, words, imagination and emotion. It’s staying connected to yourself and your surroundings that will allow you to present yourself and communicate with others at your best.

If you would like to review a book for us or know of a book we should be reviewing, join the TrainingZone.co.uk Book Club.

Pilar Orti is director of Unusual Connections, a company using theatre exercises to nurture creative thinking in leaders and teams

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Pilar Orti

Director

Read more from Pilar Orti
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