Brett Fyfield FHEA is a user experience and interaction designer who has introduced multimedia production techniques to diverse international audiences since 1994. He brings his expertise in teaching and supporting learning to the Visual Communication discipline within the School of Design at QUT. Brett firmly believes that we teach to change the world and his research interests include the use of augmented reality in hybrid learning spaces, conversational design and investigating how casual conversations can create sustainable change.
What kind of presenting do you do at work?
As an academic and design researcher, my opportunities for presenting are pretty varied. Whether talking to industry partners and research stakeholders or sharing my work at international conferences, I always find an opportunity to incorporate lessons I’ve learned from Michelle. More often than not, it’s in the lectures and tutorials where I have the chance to embody the persuasive and entertaining presenter that I’d like all my students to become. As a reflective design practitioner, I see my everyday interactions with people as an opportunity to change the world one critical conversation at a time.
What prompted you to study with Michelle?
I am fortunate to work in an environment that supports and expects people to become thought leaders and persuasive communicators. The leadership in my school and faculty routinely invest in my development as an early career academic. Michelle has been on campus a few times to deliver her two-day workshop. I’ve heard people raving about the experience, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it. I’m privileged to be surrounded by people committed to life-long learning and design for change.
How did Michelle’s teaching change your attitude to presenting in business?
I’ve always enjoyed presenting in public, strange as that might sound. Even so, I know that it’s a skill worth developing. One of the things that has changed is that I’m no longer a solitary presenter standing in front of a largely anonymous audience. I’m learning to see the audience as diverse, informed, educated participants in a shared experience. I’m learning to anticipate their concerns and listen more deeply to their questions, making me a more responsive and engaged presenter who truly wants to understand people.
In general, what positive outcomes have you achieved from improving your presentation skills?
In academia, as in any other business context, success is built upon developing relationships founded on trust and mutual respect. When people see me present, I hope they see someone who is an expert in their field and an effective communicator. Recently, I’ve been able to access opportunities that I would have thought of beyond my current level of experience. I have just returned from 5 days in the United States on a study tour and the Adobe EduMax conference at the invitation of Adobe, where I joined academic thought leaders from institutions worldwide. Sharing an experience like that with senior academics and tackling global issues facing higher education are all possibilities realised through finding my voice and speaking authentically.
In what specific ways have your presentation skills improved since learning with Michelle?
Haha, that’s a good one. I love speaking with my hands, and you know what they say about most communication being non-verbal. I learned that there are specific ways you can harness your body language to influence people. The way you move, stand and project yourself across the room not only can give you confidence and also give people in the room the confidence that you are speaking your truth. These days, people tell me I am an “awesome communicator” and capable of holding “sparkling conversations” that are “full of energy and enthusiasm”. Getting feedback like that is only possible because I’ve taken the time to develop the skills at the foundation of persuasive communication.
What were your top three take-aways from Michelle’s masterclass?
1. Building a rapport with your audience assumes that only some people will naturally receive your ideas, and that’s OK. However, you can cover all bases by pacing out objections and leading people through applying universal truths. When you do this with empathy for your audience, through eye contact and movement with them, you’ll bring them along for the journey, wherever that might lead! People are motivated in many different ways, some by moving away from pain and others by moving towards their values.
2. Recognising what motivates people early on, anticipating and delivering answers that satisfy their latent needs, will capture their attention and help them focus on your message. As a presenter, you control the situation, so framing the conversation can help determine what is within scope and what to address another time.
3. Crafting your presentation well ahead of time will ensure that you consistently achieve the results you’re after.