At some point during their internship, every Grant Thornton intern is sent to Bradenham Manor in High Wycombe, which the firm uses for training purposes. I can honestly say that the two days I spent there were the best days of my internship (so far!). Grant Thornton booked our accommodation and meals for us, and organised for us all to arrive the night before, which was great as it gave us a chance to settle in and get to know one another before the course began the next morning. The training course was entitled “developing your business impact” and focused on improving our presentation skills in order to give us the best chance possible of delivering a great final presentation at the end of our internship and thus securing a permanent job here. I am often quite dubious about courses like these; I think many people would share my scepticism about the improvement that can be made in just two days and when looking merely at the theory behind business impact, but those people are just going to have to trust me when I say I was proven wrong and was truly astounded by how much good the course did me.
I think one of the best things about it was that it wasn’t theory as such. Throughout both days we were engaged in workshops and exercises designed to make us explore our skills and develop them. I personally really enjoyed the exercises on body language and building rapport, in which we were asked to have a conversation with another intern but keep ourselves out of rapport in terms of body language (for instance by facing away from one another and adopting a different stance). The ensuing awkwardness was unbearable and taught us a lot about non-verbal communication! I’ve previously mentioned that as part of the final firing/hiring decision the firm wants each intern to make a presentation to senior people within Grant Thornton on how we can grow. The topic assigned to me is “How can Grant Thornton make the most of social media to improve business performance and what should our strategy be?” I was quite pleased to be talking about social media because this is something I feel quite well-versed in (as is probably clear from the fact that I’m writing a blog and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter . . .).
Like most of the interns though, I felt a bit nervous about presenting my ideas verbally to a room full of my peers and my superiors. The most helpful part of the training for me therefore, was the chances we had to practise giving our presentations to one another. We were able to receive confidence-building feedback and even video ourselves. Yes, watching back an eight minute video of myself presenting was quite painful first time round, but it was so useful. I’d never considered doing this before and was able to clearly see the areas the others had pointed out to me where I needed to improve. Videoing myself presenting in the last session on the second day, having taken all the criticism on board, and watching that back, was an incredibly rewarding and encouraging experience. I couldn’t believe how far I’d come in such a short space of time. I now feel more than ready for my presentation this week. In fact I’m quite looking forward to it!
Just to close I feel I should mention the social side of Bradenham; something Grant Thornton is excellent at is encouraging a healthy work-life balance! I’m a bit of a History geek so loved that the old manor had once been home to the likes of the House of Windsor and Benjamin Disraeli (I even got to see Disraeli’s old wig cupboard!). Bradenham also provided us with wonderful food and with some beautiful gardens (I actually managed to get lost in the woods there, which is either a testimony to the size of their grounds or to my sense of direction!) We spent the evenings playing croquet and rounders on the lawns until the sun set and enjoying the very reasonably priced bar on site. I came back to London with some very firm friends, a new confidence regarding my presentation, some wonderful memories, and a lot of dirt in my shoes!