Learn to be heard
Gradtrain was launched in 2014 after realising the gap between how a degree can teach students to think effectively, and the provision of the necessary tools to communicate their ideas and knowledge to others.
It is rare to get by in a job or even research role without having to speak in public, whether that be a team meeting, an office town hall or a large-scale conference. All of these situations require telling a story and captivating an audience to some extent, and words can only do so much. The rest of the 'performance' relies on the right balance of visual aids, a clear voice, confidence, stage presence, techniques for handling nerves and several other nuanced communication skills.
To best help the graduate generation increase their confidence in public speaking skills and prepare for the job market, the Gradtrain Associate team is made up of a group of professionals from various backgrounds in business, academia and professional acting.
Stewart O'Reilly leads the Gradtrain team and joined the company in 2016 before taking the helm in 2019. Stewart trained as an actor at LAMDA and has performed in theatre, TV and film, before going on to several years of employee communications project work for a variety of blue-chip corporates. He also works regularly as a Business Actor with high-profile clients on employee training programmes typically revolving around having more effective conversations, and runs notsobigfilms which is a business marketing and training videos production company.
Welcome to Gradtrain
The job market after leaving higher education has never been more competitive. Companies want that 'extra something' from graduates, and it has never been more important for universities to enhance the employability of their students than now; a degree is no longer just enough. Researchers and academic staff are also facing ever more pressure to disseminate their work beyond the academy be it to the media, the public, patients, policymakers or business.
Gradtrain provides expert communication workshops specifically tailored for undergraduates, postgraduates, newly employed graduates, researchers and academic staff of all disciplines. Our fun and interactive courses are designed to enhance presentation skills and/or employability, and enable universities to fulfil their training obligations to its staff and students. And for those graduates who have just entered the world of employment, we help with making you a more compelling and impactful presence in the workplace too.
Gradtrain also differs from other training companies in that our courses have been co-designed by academics and communications experts in consultation with those for whom life is a constant public speaking gig - Actors! Working with professionally trained actors, Gradtrain is able to harness the rigorous training and performance skills learnt by actors to tell a story to an audience, maintain their attention, and emotionally move them in order to affect a change.
These soft skills, with practice, can make all of the difference in setting you apart from the crowd when it comes to 'selling' yourself and/or your ideas, and with a nice balance of theory and practice in our workshops, we can help you learn to be heard.
If you'd like to know more about our workshops or talk to one of the team, please send us an email to -
With the amount of diverse experience and transferrable skills within the team, we strive to always make our workshops engaging and fun, and most importantly to leave our customers with a new set of skills that they can continue to use as they grow in their career.
Public Speaking for Researchers and academic staff
Academics can make as much of an impact from what they say as what they write whether it be through teaching, conferences or job presentations. This workshop takes participants through how to structure a speech, the use of appropriate language and imagery, audio-visual aids and how to master the Q&A, and draws upon acting techniques such as how to improve diction, resonance and stage presence as well as relaxation and breathing techniques to calm nerves.
Storytelling for Researchers and academic staff (Presenting your research)
Taking a storytelling approach to communicating your research could seem at odds with the traditional methods of academic reporting, but storytelling is an immensely powerful tool that has been around for millennia. Professionals and organisations in all sectors have come to realise its value in conveying a message in a memorable and engaging way. Just look at what grips you to a well-written article, a visually captivating TV advert, an enthralling TED talk - storytelling techniques lift the message off the page and bring it to life for an audience, leaving them emotionally or intellectually affected, and wanting to know more. This interactive and participative workshop fuses storytelling techniques and a professional actors’ training, with an academic twist; to help you become a more compelling and engaging communicator.
Broadcasting your research (Media workshop)
This interactive and practical workshop allows academics to experience time in front of the lens and to work with an interviewer who will give them practical experience of the techniques required in this medium. The workshop begins with the process of being contacted by the media for an 'expert analysis', how a TV or Skype interview works, advice on clothes, camera and microphone techniques, as well as pay expectations and how to build long-lasting relationships. All participants will receive feedback in the moment as well as a copy of their video interviews/presentations and a media training pack.
Vlogging: Tips and techniques
In the day and age of video being the most highly consumed content on the web, it is a very valid platform for academics and grads/undergrads to communicate their messages. As a form of marketing too, all the social media channels allow an individual to share content instantly and widely, and even though the concept has been around for years now, when it comes to academia it is still a very untapped source. This workshop takes participants through technical advice (what cameras/mics to use or buy, lighting, how to frame yourself, intro to editing and software, advice on the length of videos), and has a strong focus on content (finding your 'So what?' / unique voice, basic marketing and sales principles and storytelling techniques). As well as advice on the best social media channel and hosting websites for your message, rules on copyright for photos, music etc, the session allows participants to 'vlog' in session and share constructive feedback with others. A copy of these videos as well as a resources pack is available following the workshop.
Job interview skills practice
The interview process can be the most daunting part of securing a job. Through skills-practice (old term
'role-play') with a professional actor, this workshop allows you to try out your skills in a safe environment and with no consequences of not getting the job! Having the opportunity to practice takes the risk out of doing it for the first time in the actual interview. You can make mistakes, celebrate your improvements and benefit from real-time feedback on the impact you are having on our 'Interviewer'. Our trainers have in-depth experience in the interview process (from both sides of the fence) and will be able to ensure that you are more comfortable and prepared for when it comes to the real thing. Practice doesn't always make perfect, but it comes a close second! The workshop also covers CVs and cover letters as well.
Communications skills for graduates and undergraduates
Do you struggle to convey your ideas, information and feelings? Do you only hear what you want to hear be it criticism or praise? This course offers specialised communication training to help students handle difficult situations be it an interview, meetings or negotiating with customers or clients. Via skills practice (role-play) technique and led by a professional communications coach, this course will enable you to express and explain yourself, deliver constructive criticism and develop confidence and assertiveness.
We’d identified a need to support the development of public speaking skills amongst our doctoral researchers and GradTrain’s workshop descriptions looked interesting and engaging. We were not disappointed! To witness the transformation in the confidence of the participants at the end of the workshops is wonderful. Stewart and his colleagues create a supportive and safe environment for the students to work in. Stewart builds a great rapport with them and develops their understanding of the importance of effective communication in a sector where public engagement is high on the agenda.
- Lesley McDonagh, Doctoral Researcher Development Programme Coordinator,
University of Westminster
Gradtrain's public speaking for researchers workshop is a popular course that we run regularly and which receives consistently good feedback from PhD students, one example being... "The public speaking course was a holistic and well-paced workshop on presenting that made a very uncomfortable task really comfortable and fun.... Excellent for teaching presentations and public speaking skills. The presenters were great, gave personal feedback to everyone and personalised the content well."
- Dr Afia Ahmed, Doctoral Academy Officer,
University of Cardiff
We’d love to hear from you if we can help in any way, so please feel free to contact us here or by phone...
If you'd like to know more about our video production services, please visit our sibling company's website:
Stewart is a professional actor, Learning & Development practitioner and runs notsobigfilms; a production company creating training and marketing videos for individuals and businesses. He took over GradTrain from Dr Eliza Filby in 2019, after three years of working for them as a trainer. After training at LAMDA, he applied his communications skills as an Employee Engagement manager for several large banks including HSBC, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Lloyds TSB. Stewart regularly works on learning events with clients such as BBC, PwC, IBM and Co-op, helping employees to have better outcomes at work through learning about their own behaviours and the impact these can have.
Peta is a professionally trained Actor, Role-player and Personal Impact coach. Alongside her work in the theatre, Peta has worked in the corporate sector for the past 15 years providing vocal coaching, personal presentation skills and realistic characters for training, interview and assessment purposes. Through her own company, Actor Factory Productions, Peta has worked with companies such as Barclaycard, Twinings, Camelot and extensively with public sector organisations.
Dr Shanon Shah
Dr Shanon Shah is a Visiting Research Fellow at King's College London, where he also received his doctorate in the sociology of religion in 2015. He has previously lectured in religious studies at King's, the University of Kent, the Institute of Ismaili Studies and St Augustine’s College of Theology. He has also conducted research for INFORM, an educational charity focusing on minority religions and alternative spiritualities based at King's, and regularly writes for the acclaimed quarterly periodical Critical Muslim. Before embarking on academia, Shanon was an award-winning singer-songwriter, playwright and journalist in his native Malaysia.