Calling all Apprentice fans. I’ve decided to lift the lid on that ‘exercise’ and explain how it helped finalist Courtney Wood shine in his final pitch.
We were asked to be part of ‘The Apprentice’ final but ended up with more airtime on the ‘You’re Hired’ programme following it. If you saw it you’ll know that one exercise in particular became a running theme with Rhod Gilbert, the ‘You’re Hired’ presenter, who even made it part of his opening segment.
The exercise in question was one where I wrapped my hands around Courtney’s waist and got him to walk forward while delivering his presentation as I pulled against him in the other direction.
Admittedly, the exercise looks a bit weird. But one of the reasons I think it got so much attention was that Courtney’s presentation style improved so dramatically. The ‘You’re Hired’ show’s panellists including comedian Hal Cruttenden couldn’t believe something so seemingly odd, and so far from both acting and business, could have such an impact. Cruttenden, himself a drama school graduate, said he’d never seen the exercise. With it causing such a stir, I thought I’d explain why I did it and what it intended to achieve.
The first point worth noting is that I don’t think I ever specifically experienced this technique while I was training at RADA. In fact, the first time I encountered it was in Belgium while delivering a course with my RADA in Business colleague Willi Richards. However, it is still a technique rooted firmly in drama training.
To understand this let’s first go back to Courtney. The pressures of making a primetime television show meant that Courtney and I had a very limited amount of time together, leading to the more than 60 seconds of screen time eventually broadcast. What was clear to me immediately on meeting Courtney was that nerves and associated physical tension were holding him back when speaking in public, especially a tendency to hold his breath. I had little time and needed to make a big change, which called for a technique that would have an immediate and significant impact.
Relaxation & Grounding
Following some core work to help Courtney find a sense of relaxation and grounding, I asked him to deliver his speech. He was very tentative in his delivery and what I would call ‘held’. All his energy was sitting in his chest and not flowing through his body. He had no connection with the floor and no stable base to communicate from. In that moment I could see that the best way to get him physically engaged and help him use his breath more was to give him something strong to work against. While the edit failed to show you the difference in the theatre at RADA, we can see from his final pitch to Alan Sugar that the experience helped him find an ease and confidence sorely lacking earlier in the series.
The Importance of Preparation
One of the most rewarding things for us in the final was to see him preparing and practicing in advance of the pitch. We talk about the importance of preparation and rehearsal until we’re blue in the face here at RADA in Business and it’s incredibly rewarding to have such a clear example of the benefit that rehearsal can make.
I’ve already had a number of former clients jokingly ask if I’ll do the exercise when I next work with them. The answer is, maybe. It’s not one size fits all. All our tutors at RADA in Business use a wealth of exercises and techniques. One of the key parts of our job is to diagnose who needs what, and adjust our training to help them succeed. Courtney may not have won the Apprentice but he won many fans and stunned his mentors, the audience, and half the nation in his ability to deliver a confident, credible and authoritative presentation.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I wasn’t one of the stunned ones. Good luck Courtney, may your trophy-shaped sippy cups take the world by storm.