Over the last couple of days I attended a consultancy skills training course run by my employer, EMC Consulting. It was a 2-day residential course set in the very smart grounds of Sunningdale Park, near Ascot in Berkshire. Around fifteen consultants from across the company attended, and most of us had never met before.
The course was run by managing consultant Tim Barker, who has been with the company for ten years. He was flanked a glamorous assistant on each day (also managing consultants), Siobhan Dowst and Linda Pakuls. Tim’s style was very direct and engaging, and he made us feel valued as contributors straight away by encouraging us to share our experiences as consultants throughout the course.
Much of the course was on presentation techniques, but we started with an overview of who EMC Consulting are and how we each fit in to this huge organisation. In my experience this is a much discussed and little understood subject, particularly amongst new employees. In short, EMC decided to move in to consultancy, and acquired a number of consulting companies in the UK to achieve this. I now have a much better understanding of the heritage of the company than I did before the course, and this gives me a little warm feeling inside. I’ve now met people from other divisions of EMC Consulting and that helps too.
Next we were asked to split in to groups and some presentations, one on Agile vs Waterfall project management, and one on the EMC Consulting Interactive Media team (of which I am a member). These went off fairly painlessly.
We then moved on to the main event which was to deliver a pitch for the website rebuild for a sandwich delivery company. This culminated in possibly the worst presentation I have ever been involved in. We failed to even get our files on to the same computer and so ended up swapping the projector cable around mid-pitch. Bad times. We also spectacularly ignored the advice to ‘keep it simple’ and spent ages getting in to loads of unnecessary detail which wasted time. We couldn’t even manage an EMC Consulting logo on the slides.
Laurel and hardy, eat your heart out. Tim was understandably unforgiving and declared that he was ‘very disappointed’ with both presentations.
After this traumatic experience we finished for the day and checked in to our very nice hotel rooms. Then we went for a wine-fuelled dinner and free bar afterwards which was full of various people in suits getting drunk at their companies’ expense. A good time was had by all.
The next day we had sessions on giving and receiving feedback, Belbin team theory and personality types and also a review of the day before. I got some feedback on my presenting style which was generally positive but I noted the following:
- Avoid apologetic or indecisive language – ‘probably’ and ‘maybe’ should be replaced by simple statements
- Maintain eye contact when you’re addressing someone directly
Overall the course was possibly the most enjoyable training course I’ve been on. The interactive style and genuine value placed on our own experiences was great. It was hard work and pushed many of us. But the fact that the company should invest so positively in its staff is really great – there aren’t many employers that I know who would put staff up in a hotel for 2 days and lay on such a good course.