Women in business course, NIDA reviewed by Melissa Yen

by 18 Sep 2007

Being female in the workplace poses many challenges for businesswomen. As hard as it may be to accept, there are some characteristics we hold that highlight our tendency to come across as the ‘softer’, ‘more vulnerable’ sex, particularly when it comes to presenting to an audience of men and other coworkers who require us to be as articulate and confident as possible in order to gain credibility.

However, as I discovered, there are talented people out there who can help us in our search for this ‘power of presence’ and enhance our awareness of women’s issues in the workplace. Acting professionals, well-known for their mastery of audience engagement through physical, vocal and presentation skills, are the perfect people to learn from in this space.

The two-day “Women in Business” course, run by the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), is designed to empower even the most timid woman with the knowledge they need to manage the differences between the way men and women communicate. Acting professionals and tutors help participants to enhance their vocal, communicative and physical presence. Essentially, you enter the realm of the actor’s language in the form of actions and objectives – a set of tools used to help make any ‘performance’ more effective and engaging.

The first day of the course focuses on vocal preparation as well as vocal and presentation skills, where participants are taught the vocal warm-up exercises used by actors to help maximise vocal potential and impact. While the exercises seem strange – not many of us would ever think to stretch out our tongues or start humming to exercise our pitch range –the proof is definitely in the pudding.

A large part of this course requires participants to step out of their comfort zone. With knowledge and subsequent empowerment come challenges, so be prepared to get out from behind that desk and move around. Participants are bound to learn something new about their demeanour and the way they come across.

The beauty of this course is that it enables participants to apply what they are learning to their unique circumstances as well as specific scenarios. As part of one exercise, for example, everyone is given the opportunity to present as they would in their workplace. This presentation is recorded on camera and analysed by the tutor in terms of the participant’s strengths and weaknesses.

While being put under the spotlight may be very uncomfortable for some, it is a very beneficial process. The thought of presentations, exercises and role-plays may seem daunting, the other great thing about this course is that it all takes place in the company of other women who are all there to learn the same thing.

As a result, there is no end to the support and feedback you receive from the tutor as well as fellow students. There is plenty of discussion following each exercise and there is no substitute for the inspirational environment of an acting studio and practice room to help you forget your ‘normal’office self, and become the powerful professional you need to be.

Participants are taught to give presentations as a form of storytelling. Students are urged to structure their presentations with this in mind to ensure presentations have a clear beginning, middle and end, so the presentation can be easily structured and seamlessly delivered.

Aspects of physical presence, working with an audience and specific challenges faced by women and participants are also addressed in the course.

“Women in Business” is a unique and worthwhile course for any woman seeking empowerment and refinement of their presentation skills.

For more information call (02) 9697 7600, email info@nida.edu.au or visit www.nida.edu.au