Eight young agri-professionals have just taken part in the latest John Forrest Award Communication Skills course. One of the participants, Zoe Fletcher from Ceres Rural, describes what the course is and has done for her professional ability to communicate well at every opportunity.
“Effective communication, confidence, and the different tools available to us aside from PowerPoint! This is some of what we 8 participants learnt about during our three-day residency at Madingley Hall, Cambridge, funded by the John Forrest Award and the Felix Cobbold Trust.
Gateway to new communication skills
Turning through the brick-sided iron gates and looking up the daffodil-lined driveway, with the impressive 16th century hall set high above the lake and grass, we were sure this was going to be an exciting course to attend and an interesting place to visit.
In the Board Room we were welcomed by Susie Emmett of Green Shoots Productions (the course provider), to see the list of all the aspects of communication skills we would cover in the three days and started to get to know each others names and job roles. The way we presented ourselves was being analysed right from the start.
On the same day we reviewed what we regarded to be effective and non-effective communication, presenting to the group a review we had produced prior to the course on examples of a communication opportunity and what went well, and less well. We had all chosen different examples. It was a bit nerve-racking having to present in front of eight strangers so early on, but it was good to be challenged and receive direct feedback from the group, which you don’t tend to get in the ‘real’ world. We were set two pieces of coursework for the night to test our writing skills: a piece of creative writing and an application for either a research or travel grant. Two! So, after an enjoyable 3 course dinner consisting of the biggest wedge of deep-fried brie I’d ever seen, a slice of pate sat on a steak and a bowl of tiramisu so big you could swim in it, it was back to our rooms to get our assignments completed, and use the tips and techniques already learned.
Multiple tutors to deepen the experience
On Day 2 we were joined by Susie’s business partner, Patrick Harvey. We focused on the importance of producing and including photography in your presentations, how to take the best possible photos of people, plants, processes, and places. We were given the competitive challenge to put the tips into practice. We also covered how to make good film with a smartphone, and you can watch the movie we made.
We were also joined by Colin Smith from the Felix Cobbold Trust who reviewed the assignments we produced the evening before, choosing winners for the best examples of compelling opening, depth of detail, clarity, or sharp focus.
We had 2 guest speakers that joined us for dinner that night, David Jones of TMAF and Georgina Barrett from BBRO, both of whom are previous participants of this course. They presented to us the progress they had made in their careers following their time on the course and how they have changed or adapted their style with the communications toolbox of ideas and knowledge they were given when they attended.
How to maximise the power of media
On Day 3, with the help of a broadcast media professionals, we focussed on how make the most of media opportunities, whether on TV, radio or presenting online in webinars. We recorded filmed interviews and had to record our own DIY clips on smartphones.
We also looked at professional use of social media platforms and how to join and steer conversations as well as start them.
The experience and skills are already being put to good use
A diverse range of roles and people had come together to share this experience of gaining important skills for improving our communication as agri-professionals, and we all came away feeling that was exactly what we had achieved.
Myself, Milo Dring (Agrovista), Marion Self (AICC/Prime Agriculture), Dominic Swan (Catalyst Farming Ltd), Sally Aherne (RSPB), Ian Lowery (Crowshall Veterinary Services), Emma Haley (YANA), and Leah Howells (PGRO) would like to take the opportunity again to thank the John Forrest Award and Felix Cobbold Trust for awarding us places on this course, The Morley Agricultural Foundation for their support, and Green Shoots Productions for delivering the course to us in such a fantastic way.
To anyone considering it, do it! You will get so much information and guidance from 3 days on how to present yourself, your profession, and your passion.”
Photo selection from the participants
Article by Zoe Fletcher, Ceres Rural