September 20, 2015 2:17 pm
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Daily Telegraph article on presentation training

Singing lesson is the key to increased productivity

Si si si, do la da. Ya ku si ne la do ba na-ha. Ba-na-ha, ba-na-ha. Ya-ku si ne la do ba na-ha.

Curious sounds are emanating from The Strand offices of business advisory firm Deloitte. Whatever is going on? Has there been an invasion by Hare Krishna? Are coping with Triffids (sorry, MiFID), Basle II and the latest International Accounting Standards just too much to bear? Has a modern-day Julie Andrews been recruited to teach best singing practice?

Actually, the latter is not too far off the scales. In an anonymous little room tucked away in Deloitte’s tax office, opera singer Kathryn Hide is tutoring 14 consultants from Deloitte’s global banking team.

Group members have completed strenuous warm-up exercises, pretending to pick up weights, perfecting their postures and shouting “hey” out loud. Now they’re in full rendition of the little Congolese ditty printed above and a Radio Five Live broadcasting crew has turned up to record this prestigious debut.

“Let’s just keep the noise down,” advises Hide, before getting her choir to go through the alphabet one more time. I can’t think what she means.

Hide and her husband Graham Singleton claim to be the first specialist corporate singing consultants. Their consultancy, Make Yourself, works with bankers, advisers and other City types who need performance skills such as conducting presentations.

“We offer team-building, bonding and creativity through singing,” says Singleton. “It’s a fast way of bringing together individuals, energising them and making them more productive.”

It’s about getting them to understand how to use their bodies to free up their minds,” adds Hide. “It takes people outside their comfort zones.

“Si si si means ‘welcome’ in Congolese. We use Congolese songs because they have level long vowels,” says Hide. “English vowels have terrible diphthongs.”

Deloitte’s involvement started when Hide struck the right note with Deloitte consulting partner Chris Harvey at a party last summer.

“She was saying she was an opera singer and had an idea about using singing as a way of building teamwork skills,” recalls Harvey. “I thought it was a great idea and said, ‘let’s give it a go.’ I don’t think any of the team has sung before but I didn’t have any problems getting them along. It’s been very effective and everyone has had a good time as well.”

They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, though that may have something to do with the white wine that Deloitte generously provided for the occasion.

“Deloitte is our biggest customer,” says Singleton, who worked in advertising for 20 years before coming up with the sing-song idea. “They have started using us for their clients as well. Banks have meetings where they have 50 people from 20 different counties and use us for team-building.”

Singleton says customers have included Dutch bank ING and ad agency J Walter Thompson.

Deloitte is singing from the same hymn sheet. “Confidence is critical to performance at work,” claims a communications missive entitled: “Singing Works Wonders in the Workplace”.

“Making tough decisions, being creative and getting your point across are all enhanced by self-belief and self-assurance.”

A business woman who also went through the Make Yourself training commented that the teaching not only worked wonders for her singing, but also transformed her performance in the workplace. The confidence she had gained had changed her attitude to life and work.

What her colleagues thought may be another matter, of course. Will corporate earplugs now become a workplace accessory alongside foot rests and anti-glare computer screens?

It has to be said, however, that this inaugural recording session goes rather tunefully. My uneducated ears don’t detect any growlers or screamers, though a quick straw poll afterwards finds that this may not be a universally held opinion.

All that remains is for someone to think of a name. Will it be the Deloitte Delinquents, the High Numbers or Three Tenners? As long as the firm doesn’t feel moved to compose a corporate song, I’m sure nobody will mind.

As for me, all this team-building and wine drinking (well I have to do something while listening to this, er, Deloitteful din) leads to something rather less harmonious.

A post-singing pub invitation with group members seems rude to turn down and soon we find ourselves in full rendition of The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, diphthongs and all. Maybe we should have stuck to Si si si.