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presentation training in scotland, bill mcfarlan, pink elephant

Presentation skills training in Scotland – and why it’s different here

When I’m playing golf on the continent, presentation skills training in Scotland is a topic that’s often raised.

This week, it came in the form of a question from a new golfing partner in Portugal’s Algarve:

“So what’s the difference between courses in Scotland and anywhere else in the world?”

He was curious to know how our business had operated in 25 countries across the globe.

And how much our courses had to be adapted.

So I started by explaining how in Australia they needed to be worried by the hole in the ozone layer.

But in Scotland our first concern was the low cloud of confused Calvinism.

Read on.

Presentation skills training in Scotland

Presentation skills training in Scotland, bill mcfarlan, interviewing on camera

The biggest reason presentation skills training in Scotland is different from elsewhere is cultural.

Elsewhere, success is applauded.

And confidence is cultivated.

In Scotland, pride in what we achieve is condemned in some quarters as being sinful.

In my early days as a BBC TV presenter, my mother remarked on how much she’d enjoyed my programme.

And how well she felt I’d presented it.

Then she added:

“But don’t get your head stuck in the door on the way out.”

Two compliments and a criticism.

For doing something well.

So our culture remains two steps forward, one step back.

Success is often viewed with deep suspicion.

That’s why I say this next part on our presentation skills courses.

We’re steaming down the fast lane of the motorway, with the handbrake jammed on hard.

Was my mother being cruel?

No, I believe she was being protective.

Wanting to shelter me from the inevitable criticism that comes from some quarters when we succeed.

Watering-down words

Presentation skills training in Scotland, bill mcfarlan, watering down words

So yes, presentation skills training in Scotland is different from those we run elsewhere.

Because of one very obvious factor.

The presence among participants of so many watering-down words.

Words like “quite” or “relatively” or “reasonably”.

Like “think” or “try”.

Or “hopefully” or “do my best”.

Words that diminish the value of what we say, by watering it down.

I first realised the scarcity of these words when running a course for the airline technology giant Amadeus in Madrid.

For almost 20 years now, we’ve travelled to their bases in Nice, Munich and New York.

In Dubai, Dallas and Stockholm.

And found the same thing.

Non-Scots are more inclined to use phrases like:

“We’re committed.

“I’m determined.

“I firmly believe that…

“Our clear goal is…”

Because they grew up without the low cloud of confused Calvinism keeping their confidence from developing.

I say “confused Calvinism” because I believe the thinking is misinterpreted.

It’s good to be modest and keep your opinions about yourself to yourself.

But if we’re unable to accept praise for a job well done without criticism, how can our confidence grow?

This “false modesty” kills the confidence of people we speak to.

It stops them believing in us as speakers .

My colleague Colin Stone explains more about this in our monthly vlogs.

Release the handbrake

Presentation skills training in Scotland, bill mcfarlan, release the handbrake

I’ve been running presentation skills training in Scotland since the mid-1980s.

I do see things changing.

But much too slowly.

So here’s my plea.

For the sake of our children developing into confident members of society.

Can we please release the handbrake?

And travel at the same pace as everybody else who’s on a journey to success?

Flush out the watering down words.

Adopt the language of commitment.

And punch a hole in the low cloud of confused Calvinism.


Bill McFarlan is co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can read his full profile here.


Presentation skills training in Scotland blog photos by Pink Elephant.

28th February 2020 Featured in: Blog, Presentation skills training blogs By:

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