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Presentation skills training Scotland: Bill McLaren CBE

The late and great rugby commentator Bill McLaren was much-loved for his gusto and depth of knowledge of the game.

Watch any Six Nations re-run from the early 60s until 2002.

It’s likely to be enlivened by the voice of the former PE teacher from Hawick in the Scottish Borders.

His knowledge of the game was incredible.

And his preparation exhaustive.

We advocate his techniques on every presentation skills training session we give in Scotland and overseas.

The McLaren formula

the mclaren formula, presentation skills training scotland, pink elephant

Before each big game, Bill would sit down with his wife, Bette.

She would quiz him on the players lined up for the game.

The substitutes.

The referee and his assistants.

As well as the coaches.

The head-to-head.

The media coverage from the week before.

He was across it all.

He would write each player’s name on one side of a post-it note and their stats on the other.

Bette would quiz him:

“Ian Sinclair”.

Bill would reply:

“Flanker. Watsonians 1995-2006, one-year spell with Glasgow Warriors. Father played for Melrose”.

His knowledge meant he could concentrate on the art of commentary.

Without having to even glance down to his notes and check.

Presentation skills training Scotland

Presentation skills training Scotland, pink elephant communications, bill mclaren

When we run presentation skills training in Scotland, two common types of problems arise:

  • “I simply didn’t have the time to prepare properly”
  • “I spent the whole of the last week on it”

Here’s the good news.

Rather than having to remember the names and details of 46 players and subs, all you have to hone and rehearse is your own stories.

Ones that relate to your audience.

Focus on the 90% now

Presentation skills training Scotland, pink elephant communications, focus on the 90 percent

We’ve been running presentation skills training in Scotland for 30 years.

In that time, we’ve built a number of key ‘success stories’ central to our message.

We have up to 100 examples, all of which underline our communication principles, such as:

  • Our help in securing the Commonwealth Games for Glasgow in 2007
  • Our help in securing Abellio’s ScotRail franchise in 2011
  • And our work to help the Scottish Government answer difficult questions from the world’s media, centring on the Lockerbie air disaster

They’re all written down and ready to use at any point.

They’re updated every year when something new happens, and when the older pieces lose relevance.

Of course, all successful presentations are tailored.

A new introduction that’s only relevant to your audience today.

A ‘what’s in it for me’ early on.

A fitting call to arms to inspire your audience towards action.

But the 90% in the middle tends to be similar to what you said before.

And each of these has a number of key principles attached.

It means that any speech we write simply needs us to decide:

  • Which stories are we telling today?
  • In which order?
  • How do I ‘top and tail’ that content with relevant information?

The result

Presentation skills training Scotland, pink elephant communications, post its

Your audience will be hooked from the beginning.


Because you’ve made it relevant.

They’ll be compelled by your 90% in the middle, as it’s well-rehearsed.

And best of all, they’ll be more likely to do what you’re asking them at the end as they’re bought in.

How to improve your presentations skills today

  • Write down ten things you’re proud of achieving in your work;
  • Summarise each in one word or phrase (the client name, for example) and write these words on one side of a post-it note;
  • Now write down everything your audience needs to know on the other side (timeline, location, figures, action to overcome the problem, the end result, a testimonial)
  • Test yourself by telling each story from only the short form.

Now you’re becoming an effective storyteller, you’re more likely to give sharper presentations that engage your audience from start to finish.

Your presentations post-coronavirus

Presentation skills training Scotland, post-coronavirus, video conference

There’s one final element to consider.

You’re likely to be giving your next presentation via video-conference.

So, our trainers and TV presenters Bill McFarlan and Colin Stone teamed up to give their advice on giving virtual presentations.

And you can watch that webinar here.


Andrew McFarlan is Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications. Read his full profile here.

Presentation skills training Scotland blog edited by Colin Stone.
Photos in Presentation skills training Scotland by Pink Elephant Communications, Ninian Reid / CC BY / Antonio Cinotti  / CC BY-NC-NDon

Presentation skills training Scotland

11th May 2020 Featured in: Our courses blogs By:

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