Can you teach an old dog new trick? or what my Collie Sally can tell you about giving presentations.

IMG_1199A couple of weeks ago my Collie dog, Sally, was chasing a stick that I had thrown her, when the stick got stuck – in her throat.  Narrowly missing all the important blood vessels but taking the tongue with it, the stick lodged in the back of her throat.  Fortunately she survived.  After a big operation, several weeks of medication Sally seems to be well on the way to a full recovery and her normal Collie -self.

But here’s the thing.  On her first walk out in the park, guess what she wanted to play with? Yep, you got it, Sticks!  You see it is partly in her nature to like chasing sticks and she has been trained to chase sticks ( by me!).  So now I am faced with the not inconsiderable task of teaching her to ‘unlearn’ her stick obsession and then relearning a ‘frisbee/ball’ obsession.  Wish me luck!

And this made me think about lots of things that we have to ‘unlearn’ before we can ‘relearn’ in our lives.  When we get all excited and motivated about learning something new, we forget that there may be old learned patterns of thinking and behaviour that might get in the way.  We have unlearn some ‘stuff’ before we can take on board other new ‘stuff’.  This is often the case with presentation skills.

For example.  Before we can learn new skills for speaking in public, we might have unlearn some old thinking patterns that might have held us back in the past. Thinking patterns that might have led us to believe that we couldn’t speak in public, that we weren’t good enough, that what we had to say was of no interest to other people.

For example.  Before learning how to structure and sequence a clear, concise and persuasive presentation we might have unlearn all those tired and outdated conventions of delivering presentations that surround us all the time and that we grew up with. (lame openings, wishy-washy endings, Death by Powerpoint..and so on)

For example. Before learning how to target a presentation and focus on what the audience needs to hear, we have to unlearn the presentation model that is all about talking at the audience and cramming in as much as possible about what we have to say.

In a way, if we are starting out speaking in public, then it is a clean sheet and all to  learn.  If we have been speaking in public a while, then upping your game and stretching your skills and potential may mean you have to ‘unlearn’ some habits, process and skills along the way.

If you would like to chat to Catherine about any of the issues raised in this blog, then email her on or call on 07946604859. Catherine delivers one to one training via Skype and telephone accompanied by workbooks and  homework…contact her to find out more and to express and interest.


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