Tag Archives: Longleat

Confidence and Fun

“When you have confidence you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun you can do amazing things.” (Joe Namath, former American football star and actor).

I enjoy communicating and I have great fun when I teach and help others to develop skills for presentations and talks. It is especially satisfying when you can help those who believe they can’t do it or are really not confident to do it. Sometimes it is about ‘pushing’ and almost ‘forcing’ but the context and environment needs to be supportive and understanding. So it was a pleasure, at the end of June, to engage with a diverse group of keepers and the education team at Drayton Manor Zoo in a workshop to support their engagement with visitors.

Some of the group were very confident and “up for it”, whereas others were clearly uncomfortable and not keen because of lack of confidence and experience. However, step one achieved – they were there. Step two engagement and activities for a few hours. Step three – as part of a group giving a presentation to each other – success! Next steps are to practice, work with colleagues, and engage with visitors.

My presentation and communication workshop is adapted to suit each group and situation and so it was great to have a really positive response from the Drayton Manor Zoo staff no matter what their initial feeling or experience, and that confidence was built and will develop further within the team.

The zoo is at an exciting time in its history and has long term development plans, which are great to hear about. And of course, with the added attraction of the theme park and ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ the potential for public engagement with a diverse audience within the zoo at Drayton Manor is significant.

 

Following my day at Drayton Manor it was a pleasure to return to Longleat where I conducted similar training over a year ago. I returned to visit the park but primarily to attend the ABWAK Symposium.  The staff team at Longleat were brilliant and their confidence in both visitor and conference delegate engagement was superb. Here is another collection that has very large visitor numbers and a diverse visitor experience. The ‘safari’ and ‘animal adventure’ have come a long way in the park’s 50 years+ and its very exciting to see the latest news that Longleat is to house a couple of wombats and 6 southern koala, from Cleland Wildlife Park in South Australia, in a new facility (opening in 2019).

Drayton Manor and Longleat are very different but both ‘zoos’ to watch and to visit, and both have very large audiences from diverse backgrounds, thereby having potential to take conservation and conservation education to the masses – and to have fun too!

Challenging Communication – Training @Longleat

Spare a thought for those members of staff in zoos, aquariums and visitor attractions that are tasked with communicating with visitors. It’s not as easy as you may think.

I was delighted to work with the excellent staff team at Longleat, Wiltshire, mid January 2017, in two one day workshops developing their skills in presentation and communication.  Longleat is an amazing place – not only the UK’s first safari park (opened 1966) but also has a walk around animal adventure area, lake and boat safari, play areas, train, the maze, and of course Longleat House and estate.

As an illustration of the challenge faced by the ‘educator/ keeper/presenter’, we looked at the Longleat Jungle Cruise – which is a short boat excursion on the lake, featuring Californian sea lions (an opportunity to feed), African hippo, gorilla islands and native wildlife. The presenter not only tries to talk about all the species, some conservation concerns, and other aspects of Longleat, but also do the safety announcements and oversee the sea lion feeding with the passengers who want to do it (small charge).

As part of my workshop, in small groups, the participants looked at what the objectives should be for the cruise, using the ‘Learn, Feel, Do’ model and enacted the experience – with considerable humour.

Sometimes, its good to recognise that you can’t say it all, and visitors aren’t going to listen to it all anyway. So the challenge is to make the ‘talk’ and associated activities FUN and set realistic objectives to achieve, not least of which is to inspire and excite visitors with the natural world and encourage them to find out more and get engaged in activity to support long term conservation.

The workshop included diverse activities and presentation of ideas and background and I thank the team at Longleat for their very positive feedback, for example:
Really good day, enjoyed the practical part a lot. Thank you.
Very informative and inspirational.
Very informative. Gave me more confidence to do talks. Thank you.
Excellent workshop. Well prepared and researched. A range of examples with numerous ideas out of the box, inspiring a different way of thinking. USP is enthusiasm + passion.