Entrepreneurial Thought & Action

Inspiring Futures Project

This is a document that I submitted in the second year of my degree at Plymouth University, which explores how to improve your presentation skills and teamwork abilities – with considerations to personal development.

The purpose of this piece is to clarify how various factors such as; effective body language and teamwork can improve the impact of what one is presenting to an active audience by investigating Neuro-Linguistic Programming.  In this essay I will explain how the four stages of teamwork development and analysing how it has helped my team and I in the process of the ‘Entrepreneurial Thought and Actions’ Module, I also will explain how the of changing of one’s palm position can affect the impact on the audience in terms of concentration, collaboration rates and how other factors can have an impact on the audience.

Team working is defined as being the procedure of “Breaking down production into large units and using groups of employees to complete these tasks” (Surridge, 2001). Whetten & Cameron (2016) described there being four main stages of building an effective team, this theory was originally developed by Brian Tuckman, the theory is known as the ‘Group Development Theory’. Stating the four phases are “Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing” (Tuckman B & Jensen M, 2010).

Furthermore, each part of the theory is seen to be important if a team wants to work effectively to reach certain goals. The first phase is ‘Forming’, this is where the individuals meet and get together for the first time as a group to then “identify the boundaries of both interpersonal and task behaviours (infed.org, 2013). Secondly ‘Storming’ refers to individuals resisting against group influences which cause friction between the members. The previous conflicts are resolved in the third stage ‘Norming’ the ironing out of any issues. Once that has been done the group can start ‘Performing’ eventually means “roles become flexible and functional, and group energy is channelled into the task(infed.org, 2013). After all of my research about this model, in my opinion, it has a major limitation. This model is seen to be linear, meaning the previous stage must be completed before advancing to the next stage, resulting in certain phases only occurring once but I believe conflicts can reoccur throughout any stage of teamwork meaning the model could be seen as being cyclical. I believe this would be more accurate in terms of modern-day group work because tension can run high, but this depends on the scale and complexity of the project.

There are many ways in which a team can work effectively in terms of cohesion and productivity but there are both advantages and disadvantages of teamwork. The most common advantage with working in a team is that the group has “diverse talents and background experiences” (Martinelli et al., 2010) this results in more ideas flowing through the group leading to different opinions which makes a project more successful. Controversy, a disadvantage of working in teams can be conflicts between members, previously mentioned in Brian Tuckman’s Group work Development model, people with different work ethics and opinions can find it hard to work in a group, perhaps because they do not agree with ideas or they are seen as being a ‘Specialist’ described by Belbin as being “Single-minded” (Belbin.com, 2016) meaning they are an individualist and do not work effectively in a group.

After the lectures and individual research carried out around teamwork, I came to understand how these theories have been embedded within my teamwork in this Module. The four stages of group development were the most relevant because as a group we have been through each phase, conflicts such as deciding on a time to meet but having disagreements when to and also on what tasks/idea we should go through however they were all resolved in the ‘Norming’ phase. But in any situation teamwork will only be effective if the goals are specific and it all depends upon the communication because it “builds more trustworthy working relationships for a culture of collaboration, teamwork, and productivity” (Matthews and McLees, 2015).

Presenting to an audience can be very daunting for some people, the large number of eyes looking at you or not having confidence in the content you are presenting. However, even if you do not know the content very much or are nervous, you can condition your body language to make you seem more confident. This is because body language “is a story told by your physical posture, deportment and gesture” (Brown, 2016). Body language is also known as being an “outward reflection of emotion” (Tedx Talk, 2013) meaning it shows how you are feeling but ways of changing this perspective is by simply using a palm-up technique. A system that helps explain how this can be achieved is the Neuro-linguistic Programming system. NLP is known as being a “multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioural competence and flexibility, but, also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behaviour.”(Nlpu.com, 2016). This means anyone can help improve how they communicate, under the required circumstances.

The point I will be explaining is the palm up presenting style. Tedx Talk (2013) explains this theory by stating that “Palm down presenting represents a power signal”. Meaning that if someone is using their palms in a downward motion this will be it feels like you are ordering the audience and concentration rates will drop. However, if the presenter reverses one’s palms to a face-up position this will result in the audience paying more attention and taking in more information. This is because it represents the presenter as being friendly, inviting and trustworthy, this is only the opinion of Allan Pease (Tedx Talk, 2013) but I also agree with his views because I have tried to use this model in certain situations and I can see a slight difference in the viewers concentration and willingness to listen, I used this in work and whilst practising for my group’s E-Video Submission. Unfortunately, it is very tough to gain results to prove whether it worked or not.

Alongside hand movements, eye contact/movement can portray you as being confident whilst presenting to an audience. Wiseman et al (2012) state that “certain eye-movements are reliable indicators of lying… a person looking up to their right suggests a lie whereas looking up to their left is indicative of truth-telling.” However, in my opinion, the effectiveness of a presentation depends upon the content. By this, I mean how interesting the content is for the audience if it is a dull subject this will lead to the audience becoming complacent because they could feel they already know the content, which leads onto my last point. The audience viewing the presentation, if the audience is forced to be there (school assembly) or have regrets about being there they will not be interested in listening, meaning the presenter may be giving a perfect talk but the audience are not interested to start off with. From this, I can see that there are external factors that can affect the impact of a presentation. In terms of our presentation, I believe the audience (client) was interested in what we have to offer because we have the business and the core of the whole presentation, but we will still want to use effective techniques to make certain it was entertaining yet informative.

To conclude, having an effective team can lead to greater success as it allows more ideas to flow through the group but, the group needs to connect and go through the four stages of development to do so. However, in some case, individuals can cause the team to fail because of individualism and team members not communicating leading to unclear goals and objectives. I believe my group bonded very well together even though we were all the same character type with the ‘Belbin’ team roles but we counter-acted this by setting very clear and specific tasks and deadlines. My second aim was to investigate neuro-linguistic programming and how making small changes to your body language can lead to a favourable effect on an audience. I met this aim by researching into Allan Pease an expert in body language and after watching his TED Talk this allowed me to understand the power of the palm up approach. But nevertheless external factors can have a negative effect on the impact of a presentation because perhaps the audience is forced to be there leading to low levels of concentration and interest in the subject or the content is very dull but this is where the presenter needs to use his techniques to make it more interesting. But, in my opinion, if the presenter knows the content thoroughly then one will express a positive body language portraying confidence forcing the audience to believe in what is being said and fully understand it.

I hope you’ve found this piece useful and it has added some value to you, if you have any feedback or questions – please feel free to message me on LinkedIn. 


Below you will find the references for the previous piece.

Reference list:

Belbin.com, (2016). Belbin Team Roles | Belbin. [Online] Available at: http://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2016]

Brown, E. (2016) ‘Communication Briefings’. [EBSCO Database] Jan2016, Vol. 35 Issue 1, p6

infed.org, (2013). Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming norming and performing in groups. [Online] Available at: http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming-norming-and-performing-in-groups/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2016].

Matthews, R & McLees, J. (2015) ‘Journal of Information Technology & Economic Development’ [EBSCO Database] Vol. 6, Issue 2. p23.

Nlpu.com, (2016). ‘What Is NLP?’ [Online] Available at: http://www.nlpu.com/NewDesign/NLPU_WhatIsNLP.html  [Accessed 28 Feb. 2016].

Surridge, M. (2001). ‘AS/A-Level Business Studies – Essential Word Dictionary’. P150. Oxfordshire: Philip Allan Updates.

Tedx Talks, (2013). ‘Body language, the power is in the palm of your hands: Allan Pease. [YouTube Video] Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZZ7k8cMA-4   [Accessed 25/02/2016]

Tuckman B.W & Jensen M (2010) ‘Stages of small group development revisited’, Group and Organizational Studies’ Vol 10. P43 [EBSCO Database]

Whetten, D.A. & Cameron, K.S. (2016) ‘Developing Management Skills. 9th Edition. p23 [EBSCO Database] New York: Prentice-Hall Project.

Wiseman, R., Watt, L., Porter, S., Couper, S. and Rankin, C. (2012). The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. [EBSCO Database] Available at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0040259 [Accessed 28/02/2016]