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SLA 2009: Thinking on Your Feet

It was an early start on Monday for the first session I attended, which started at 7am. “Thinking on Your Feet: Dynamic Communication” was an interactive session run by Greg Hohn, an actor and teacher of acting and improvisation techniques. The idea was to teach us how to “be in the moment” and overcome the mental blocks that prevent you from communicating well when put on the spot.

The session started with an excercise Greg called “the clam and the dragon”, where we all had to scrunch up and make ourselves as small and contained as a clam, then spread out and roar like a dragon. Have to admit I felt pretty ridiculous doing this, but it was certainly a good way to wake us all up so early in the morning!

Greg spent the session explaining the importance of, and giving tips on, being in the moment, building up self-confidence and self-awareness, and making your message relevant to your audience. Some good advice and pointers I took away:

  • What’s the worst that could happen? Remember that embarassment won’t kill you.
  • Be “deliberate” in your words and actions: the more you focus on the moment, the less space in your mind for nerves.
  • Put your message into your listener’s language. What does it have to do with them?
  • Pay attention to what your body does when you’re with people that you feel comfortable around: posture, gestures, etc. Try and recreate this when you’re outside of your comfort zone.

This was a really fun, energetic session with plenty of activities to demonstrate the points discussed and get us all outside our comfort zones. Much respect to the people who volunteered to take part in the activities at the front of the room, especially the three people who took part in the “that’s my job” excercise. This was sort of like “Who’s Line is it Anyway”: the idea was that they were three experts in particular industries who’d gone onto a TV panel show to talk about their areas of expertise. We, the “audience”, had to suggest their jobs titles: they were a perfumer, ballistics expert, and expert in needlepoint (needlepointer?). They all did very well indeed: there were some bizarre questions thrown their way, but they all handled it really well. It was very funny, but the point being illustrated was that sometimes it is best to just answer quickly rather than over-thinking it, because if you dwell too long on finding the perfect answer it won’t come.

This session was useful for me in that it reiterated a lot of things that I really should know (like the fact that embarassment won’t kill you!), but that it’s good to be reminded of from time to time. I was also really impressed by how eager people were to get involved with the activities: there’s nothing worse than sitting around with everyone looking at the floor, desperate not to be picked on! I’d put that down to Americans being less reserved, but as one of the first volunteers was a fellow Brit and SLA Europe member that really blows my theory out of the water!

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2 comments on “SLA 2009: Thinking on Your Feet

  1. How do dragons roar? And is this on youtube? Sounds like he had a lot of good advice though!

    I’m sitting in a lecturer theater full of somewhat hungover librarians as I type and I can’t say you’d get any of us to do the clam and the dragon right now!

    • Sadly, can’t find this on YouTube! Knew I should have been filming it…

      Sounds like BIALL wen’t well – well done on the tweeting btw, was great to keep up with what was going on. Wish I could have gone along, but might have been too jetlagged to take anything in!

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