In a unique professional development workshop, Leeds MBA students in Associate Professor Peter McGraw’s Marketing Management course recently learned how to harness techniques used by comedians, such as body language and vocal tone, to elevate their public speaking skills.
Pitch Lab Co-founder Jay Mays and Daniel Reskin, a local comedian, were invited by McGraw to lead a 90-minute workshop focused on delivery, storytelling, and room command. Drawing on lessons from famous comedians and storytellers, Mays and Reskin provided students with actionable takeaways for their final class presentations, with exercises in joke telling, one-word-at-a-time stories, and mimicking a partner.
“These skills are valuable for your pitch and in the real world – business schools tend to overlook these lessons,” explained McGraw, who considers these skills essential to the MBA student experience at Leeds.
McGraw’s students are asked to give a pitch about their recommendations for a company’s marketing strategy to a panel of business professionals. McGraw recently added what he calls the “sizzle factor” to the grading process, which places an emphasis on how engaging the presentation is. “A presentation can have good content, but it can still be dry. I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn about the importance of engagement in their presentations,” said McGraw.
Combating stage fright and having a confident voice are key to differentiating yourself from the competition and being more influential, pointed out Mays. “If you’re super nervous or you feel like you have a lot of ‘ums,’ you’re not prepared. You might need to practice your material more.”
The panelists evaluate each pitch and give students the experience of pitching to a professional audience. Mike Murray, the CEO of Free2b Foods, Susan Bleekman, a B2B sales and business development executive, and Bridget Braig, a strategy insight consultant and former Leeds MBA professor served as panelists last semester.