Last night we launched Pagefield Academy – our new bespoke training offer with some of the most experienced practitioners in the business. We were lucky enough to hear from Sir Christopher Meyer, Chairman of Pagefield and diplomatic alumnus extraordinaire, public speaking and presentation expert Caroline Goyder, and Sir Richard Ottoway, former Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and committee training guru, who gave us a taste of the training sessions which they will be running at Pagefield. In traditional Pagefield style, here are the five things we learnt:
When it comes to negotiation, “no deal is better than a bad deal”
Sir Christopher Meyer is the Academy Guru for negotiation and he stressed to the assembled guests the importance of walking away from a deal if necessary. Too often in negotiation, Sir Christopher remarked, companies or individuals feel that they have to leave the room with a deal that they can take away thus ceding valuable leverage in the process. The best chance to get what you want from a negotiation is to accept that there is every chance a deal won’t be done – know your red lines and don’t stray from them. He added that negotiators shouldn’t be afraid to be isolated, as it can often lead to a position of strength if you are the final card in the deck to fall.
Oratory is as important as ever, even if we no longer teach it
For her book Gravitas, Speech Coach Caroline Goyder studied Greek and Roman methods of rhetoric and oratory, and was surprised to discover that Romans of a certain class were trained in oratory, not just for speeches, but for day-to-day life. Although you won’t find it on the national curriculum today, those of us who are more plebeian than patrician need not worry, you can master presence, focus and breathing in just a few sessions to help you manage the nerves which all speakers are familiar with. Caroline’s training is targeted at developing skills in speech and presentation which can make all the difference in business life.
“There’s no substitute for being polite and well-prepared”
Sir Richard Ottaway, Pagefield’s Select Committee Guru, argued that no matter how right you think you are, or how valid your arguments may be, a little humility when appearing in front of a committee can go a long way. He added that it’s often wrong to think that the committee hearing is about the company being questioned; it is actually often more about the MPs doing the scrutinising. A genuine desire to answer a question, and some well-placed deference (even if the MPs in question seem to know little about the topic) can make the ride much smoother.
Medium is message, so take it into account
Whether you’re in a face-to-face negotiation, speaking from a podium or across the table from a political committee, the medium and environment in which you deliver your message will colour it. The more candid approach that one might take in a one-to-one meeting may be misconstrued on camera, which picks up on all sorts of tells and ticks that might not otherwise be seen. Likewise, a filmed interview would look pretty strange delivered in the same way as a speech, and a Committee appearance is perhaps the toughest in this sense, as the audience includes those in the room as well as the audience watching on screens elsewhere. Whatever the context, don’t forget to take the medium into account.
2010-15 was the parliament which saw Select Committees come out of the shadows, and they’re not leaving the spotlight any time soon
While the Select Committee was once something of a parliamentary backwater, recent years have seen the Committees emerge from their shell as a powerful and intimidating tool of political accountability. They are one of the few arenas where the country can watch as anyone from senior politicians to global CEOs of businesses or charities are put on the spot and held to account. Having found this powerful role, and with the lack of a truly effective opposition, we should expect to see more of the Committees going forwards. Sir Richard warns against making the mistake of underestimating a Committee; preparation is key.