South West Training Blog

Articles, tips, guides and blogs around business skills, training, professional courses and development in addition to South West relevant news.

Are your Presentations Presentable?

Are your Presentations Presentable?

Did you know surveys have shown that people fear delivering a presentation more than dying or divorce?  The good news for those of you who are not seasoned presenters however is that good preparation and confidence in your materials can go a long way to reducing potential presentation anxiety.

Follow these simple tips and ensure that not only are your presentations of value to your audience but that you also enjoy delivering them:

•    When preparing your presentation try to use a variety of different media; come equipped for example with a tangible product if possible to pass around, maybe incorporate a short media clip, or use a prop to demonstrate a point. Variety helps to retain participant interest.
•    Ensure that your presentation is short and snappy.  Each page should be to the point and not text heavy. The purpose of a presentation is for you as the presenter to deliver the content, not your slides. The slides are there merely to add emphasis and clarification to what you are saying. They are not there as a crib sheet and you should avoid reading from any length off them.
•    Use slide animation tools to enable each segment of information to appear separately upon individual clicks.  This will help you structure your presentation more effectively whilst also avoiding participants reading ahead and losing sight of what you are saying.
•    Use graphics to break up the text and to lighten if the mood if the topic is very dry.
•    Use a distinct font and not one that is artistic and hence possibly distracting. You should aim for your headers to be size 20-26 and for your main text to be 16-18.
•    Use the ‘bold’ font rather than underlining or capitals as the latter can be distracting.
•    Proof read your presentation thoroughly before delivery and ask a colleague to do a double check as there’s nothing worse than being mid presentation and finding errors.
•    When introducing yourself, keep calm and don’t rush.  If you gain participant confidence within the first 30 seconds of your speech and manage to keep good control, then you should find that the rest comes naturally as your audience will give off visible signs that they are confident in you.  Rehearse your introduction repeatedly to ensure that you have it under your belt.  Inject a little humour if you feel it’s appropriate but avoid telling jokes. Incorporate for example a humorous quote which is relevant to your topic.
•    If you feel nervous at first, then do not relay this to your audience by apologising as they will start observing you for nerves and feel on edge themselves.  Take a deep breath, smile and carry on.  
•    You may want to incorporate an activity at the very beginning and get people on their feet doing something; using for example, a two minute icebreaker relevant to your theme.  This takes the attention off you for a short while and puts it back on the participants – a great tactic if you are feeling a little anxious at the very start.
•    Be aware of the speed at which you are speaking.  It’s not uncommon for people to unwittingly leave their audience behind as they race through their presentation.  Be aware therefore of how long you want to spend on each slide and ensure that you give each slide its fair due.  

If you come to your presentation equipped with a well-structured presentation, remember to smile and make good eye contract then you should find the rest comes naturally. Reinforce business skills such as delivering presentations with plenty of practice, as we all know, practice makes perfect!

Training South West delivers business training courses to companies across the South West.

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Lidl: Good Prices and Great Training!

Lidl: Good Prices and Great Training!

Lidl is planning to add an additional store to its current South West portfolio by creating a second store in Yeovil. Its portfolio has grown rapidly in this part of the world with stores across Somerset in key locations such as Bristol, Bath and Dorchester, Dorset.

This latest expansion has been met positively by the local community who can not only expect the prospect of additional jobs working for a market leading company, but also a full ‘living wage’ – putting Lidl’s shop floor workers at a distinct wage advantage when compared to other local supermarket competitors.  Good pay and additional employment opportunities are not the only reason for the local community to be happy.  Lidl also operate fantastic in house training schemes, which when delivered well, provides employees with the skills to do well in future roles regardless of whether or not they remain with Lidl.  

Adopting a ‘layered’ training approach, which encompasses the whole business entity, Lidl centralises training planning into a single dedicated in-house department.  Staff within this department are responsible for identifying training needs and developing training events, materials and systems in response.

Direction and tools flow from this department into the stores and supporting areas. Within the stores, Lidl operates a ‘Buddy’ system which ensures that new recruits are given on hand support within their immediate working vicinity making individuals who have the skills to mentor and support accessible. This approach is key to all businesses who wish to integrate their staff effectively into the business. It enables them to gain key skills on the job and avoids undue classroom attendance.

From the ‘Buddy’ system, Lidl then have formal ‘Training Mentors’ who are responsible for supporting store managers in the roll out of staff training initiatives, all of which then feeds into the Regional Training Managers who are responsible for overseeing training on a regional level and promoting a healthy learning and development culture across the business.

Lidl may be a cut price store, but a training approach such as the one outlined above at its core, certainly puts Lidl on a par with the non-cut price stores. Training flows from all levels of the business and is a key aspect of company culture and delivery.

Walker Information (an Intelligence Consultancy firm) identified training programmes as a key retention tool.  Staff who feel that they are being valued through training and development are more likely to stay within their roles.  With ‘happiness’ being an emotional contaigent, store workers are consequently more likely to impact positively on their customers; leading to greater customer satisfaction.

From a training professional perspective, we therefore welcome the news of an impending second store in Yeovil as every business counts when promoting a culture of learning and skill development within the South West.  

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Youth Theatre - Helping Kids to Perform Better

Youth Theatre - Helping Kids to Perform Better

The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, Somerset will soon be entertaining families from across the South West with their festive production of Sleeping Beauty. I can't wait!! I love the pantomime and take the children every year without fail.  The cast are always fantastic and the kids always leave having had a great time.

I love the theatre.  Not only does it bond and entertain the local community but it also contributes to the economy and provides local dancing / acting schools with opportunities to include talented youngsters in productions. No doubt local children will be included in the Octagon Theatre production of Sleeping Beauty.  

Youth Dramatics groups are fantastic for young people.  I participated in such groups for years as a child and developed skills that would otherwise not have been developed until joining the world of work. If you have a child bounding with energy who needs an outlet, then consider getting them involved in a local group and I’m sure they’ll experience the same benefits that I did as a child. Yeovil is host to some great performing arts group and so too is Bristol which is home to the Bristol Youth Theatre Studio and the Bristol Old Vic Young Company amongst others.  Without doubt additional groups will be thriving across the rest of the South West.

The following areas outline just some of the key benefits for a child:

Rehearsing and performing in front of others teaches a child confidence.  This is a fundamental skill which most adults only develop as part of formal training when they enter the work place - typically in the form of 'Presentation Skills' training.

Every member of a theatre group, regardless of the size of the role, is a vital member of the team. This validation contributes greatly to a child's self-esteem, particularly when being applauded at the end of a production.

As with Presentation Skills training above, Time Management and Prioritisation are also courses that an adult will typically engage in when they enter the work place. Participating in youth theatre groups helps a child to develop these skills at an early age as they must learn to manage their time to allow for attendance at rehearsals and productions.  Ensuring that their personal time is well scheduled, ensures that they can give their maximum to their theatre group.

Team Work is another essential part of youth theatre. Not only must children work effectively with both peers and adults but they must also operate cross functionally; interacting with those who manage the stage set, lighting, artwork, costumes etc.  The beauty of team work in this capacity is that it is non-competitive.  It gives children a chance to engage with others on a basis that requires everyone to come together as equals without competing with each other.  This is often a welcome change for children who are otherwise immersed in competitive activities.  School itself tests children from an early age; ranking them in order of performance.  During tests, collaboration is forbidden and children must perform on their own merits.  During real life however, the world doesn't work like this. To exceed in the work place, collaboration and teamwork are essential to success. Being part of a theatre group enables children to acknowledge this and develop their skills through the fundamental role played by the team in delivering a fantastic production. They are certainly not penalised for drawing on the skills and expertise of their team mates as they would be in a school test setting.

Self-discipline is another skill developed by children who are part of theatre groups.  They may, for example, have to sacrifice hanging out with friends or going out for pizza for the sake of their theatre group. This is a hugely valuable personal asset.

This list is not exhaustive (I have failed to mention the opportunity to develop skills such as problem solving skills, creative thinking and abstract thinking amongst others) but at the very least it gives a good insight into the value that membership to a theatre group presents to a child.  

Without a doubt, theatre groups help your child acquire skills at an early age which put them at an advantage when it comes to harnessing opportunities in their adult lives. So, if your child is bounding with energy and needs a channel to direct this energy then consider getting them involved.


Maybe next year they'll be part of the cast of children supporting the Octagon Theatre Christmas pantomime!

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Calling on South West Businesses to Accommodate Remote Working during the Winter Months

Calling on South West Businesses to Accommodate Remote Working during the Winter Months

I am fortunate enough to be abroad and working at the moment and I am not looking forward to coming back to Dorset, which my family have written to say is already becoming rather cold.

I wrote an article recently on behalf of Training South West which urges businesses in the region to allow more people to avoid the nightmare of commuting during winter months and accommodate remote working arrangements.  

For some people it's essential that they attend the work place but for many others it's not critical to their role at all.  They can probably get a far better job done at home.

Urge your business to look at possible remote working options for you and your colleagues - the benefits to both you as an employee and the environment are even more pronounced for the employer.  They will have a happier workforce, reduce costs, enhance employee retention and increase the geographical scope of the talent pool that they have to chose from.

It's a win win all round!

Training South West provides business training courses to South West companies

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Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Training South West has traditionally delivered its training from a dedicated training venue in Crewkerne, Somerset with beautiful, light airy training suites and great facilities. Delegates have always commented on the rooms as allowing a pleasurable space in which to learn.

Due to the way in which we work with our clients and the broad area covered across the South West, we have decided that dedicated training venues have value but that they are not always the right solution for our clients.  Why?

Our clients do not necessarily have the luxury of time to enable them to travel to a training destination which is not 'on their doorstep'.  For a client in Dorset, for example, taking a day out to travel to and from Crewkerne; whilst also battling peak hour traffic certainly does not make their life easy.

Since there are fantastic venues across the South West which are able to accommodate training delivery needs excellently then we have decided to make more use of them, particularly for our 'open' courses.  These venues are well established, have great facilities, catering on tap and happen to also be on the doorstep of our clients.  It makes more sense therefore, for the Training South West staff to do the travelling and hence remove the pressure off our clients. It's not uncommon for our clients to need to pop to the office before or after the course and for those who just want to enjoy a bit of a lie in and a slightly earlier finish then doorstep training is great!

Additionally, the venues which Training South West are now making more use of are local businesses and from a South West business perspective, why not also contribute to the businesses of our neighbours?

It's a win win all round.

If you have a venue that you feel would be great for our local training delivery then let us know.  Essentials on our ticklist include a large airy room equipped with projector, white board and 3 x flipcharts, two breakout rooms and catering facilities.  

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How well do you Performance Manage your Team?

How well do you Performance Manage your Team?

For those of us, fortunate enough to have worked under great managers early in our career, we rarely forget them and aspire towards their management attributes as we progress within our careers. I recall a conversation not too long ago with members of the team in which we discussed the ‘best managers’ for whom we’d worked and one colleague in particular was adamant that all her management skills were learnt from the manager that she held in such high esteem. She remained connected with him and would often approach him if in need of management advice or mentoring.

Management roles present us with an opportunity to really make a difference to an individual and to become that person that positively influences and shapes the development of team members as they progress within the organisation.

If you are new to managing a team, then be sure to get as much support as you can in the early days as this will undoubtedly shape your management success.

Open training programmes are a fantastic start as they give you the opportunity to meet other individuals new to field and to gain an insight into their experiences. These training programmes will also equip you with the fundamental, core performance management skills and challenge you with scenarios and case studies which you will undoubtedly have to deal with as part of your role.

For those of you not in the position to participate in training, here are some key considerations to help you along the way:

·         Ensure you fully understand the roles of your team members.  Where necessary, take the time to sit with them with and shadow them as they do their role.  Understand the challenges of their roles, the tools they use, the way in which their role is integrated with other roles across the organisation and also the success measures of their roles.  Why has the organisation invested in these roles?  What must these roles absolutely deliver in order for them to be of value?

·         If not already mapped, then map out Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your team members. KPIs are the key objectives of the role; collectively the KPIs of individual roles help the overall organisation to meet their broader objectives

·         Since poor communication can often underlie performance issues, then be sure that all your team members understands their KPIs and what you expect of them – clearly prevention is better than remedy

·         If at any time it becomes apparent that one of your team members is having a difficult time with their role then speak to them immediately.  Performance often becomes an issue if managers leave the individual to it and hope they will find their feet.  Again, prevention of an issue is certainly easier for you and healthier for the self-confidence of the employee concerned if potential problems are averted

·         If discussing performance with any of your team then always ensure that the discussion is as open as possible. It should always be the individual and not you that dominates the conversation.  Failure to listen and failure to facilitate an open discussion will undoubtedly result in the core issues remaining undetected.  The issues are not always what you might assume they are as a manager, do don’t attend the meeting thinking that you have all the answers.

·         During this discussion, you will ultimately want to understand where in the cycle of their role they are finding challenges. On this basis, why are the challenges there?  Is it an issue with training?  Is it an issue with communication (perhaps the needs of the role have not been sufficiently clarified with the individual)? Does the employee lack the tools or materials essential to do their job properly?  Perhaps these tools or materials are not fit for purpose?  Do they need to be further developed / amended? Are other team members being helpful?  Is anyone inadvertently making the role of this individual more difficult than it need be by not fulfilling their own role adequately? Is the individual managing their time properly?  Could they benefit from time management training?

·         Undoubtedly, this conversation (coupled perhaps with additional shadowing of their role for a defined period) will throw light on the issues which need to be addressed. Discuss your findings with the individual and ensure that they are in full agreement with both the issues and your suggested solutions.  Can the individual further add to the solutions?  Is anything missing?

·         Create a shared document with the individual and outline each issue clearly; adding the activities which need to happen in order to correct the issue.  Discuss the document regularly with the individual and take a keen interest in their progress.

It is most likely that the activities outlined above will go a long way to addressing the situation; winning the respect of your team member and the preservation of their dignity and self-confidence.

Where these actions do not correct the situation and where the issue continues, it may be necessary to implement the formal disciplinary processes of your organisation. It is a legal obligation in the UK that companies have formal disciplinary processes in place and that these are followed as required. 

If you need any formal training support in this respect then do not hesitate to get in contact.  We partner South West businesses to deliver Business and Management related training courses across Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucester and surrounding areas.   

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Join Us for Our Open Day

Join Us for Our Open Day

You're invited to our Open Day May 6th!

Come and join us to officially open our new training centre and meet with other local businesses for a bit of networking and nibbles.

We welcome you to come either between 12:00-14:00 or 18:00-20:00 on Tuesday May 6th 2014.

Networking Scavenger Hunt!

To make this time valuable for you, we are going to hold a Scavenger Hunt! You'll find out information about other local businesses as well as spread the word about your own. The winner will win a prize, but shhhh, it's secret…come and find out what it is ;)

We would love to see you on the day, so get that diary out and pen us in!

To register, please email Caroline on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For directions, please visit the 'Finding Us' section on our Training Centre page.

 

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