Why public speaking and presentation skills are important

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. -BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

You may be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t speak effectively, no one will know it. Your managers, peers, colleagues, customers, clients and investors will judge your skills and abilities by the way you speak.

If you are one of those people who are deathly afraid of public speaking, you are not alone. Many studies say that people rank the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death. Jerry Seinfeld said it best: “At a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.” You may say that it isn’t fair or accurate to judge a person’s professional abilities by the way they speak in public, but that’s the way it is. Many things in the working world aren’t fair. Like it or not, you will be judged by the way you speak.

You might hope to avoid public speaking as part of your job. If you chose to be an accountant, so aren’t fair. Like it or not, you will be judged by the way you speak. You might hope to avoid public speaking as part of your job. If you chose to be an accountant, software programmer, or investment banker because you believe that as long as your debits and credits balance, your software functions, or your deal closes, you won’t have to speak in public. at could not be farther from the truth.

Job function doesn’t matter. Your role in an organization doesn’t matter. Your ability to express your ideas, thoughts, and opinions verbally will have a great impact on your career. You will still need to sell a product or service to a customer, rally your team to take action, persuade a business partner to adopt your viewpoint, convince an investor to invest, or argue your case before a jury. I am defining public speaking in the broadest possible sense. It includes speaking to three colleagues in your weekly staff meeting, speaking to a small group during a conference call or video chat, speaking to 30 potential clients in a sales

I am defining public speaking in the broadest possible sense. It includes speaking to three colleagues in your weekly staff meeting, speaking to a small group during a conference call or video chat, speaking to 30 potential clients in a sales presenta- tion, or addressing a crowd of 300 at an industry conference or trade show. The size of your audience doesn’t matter. The same skills are required.

Reading List: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

Why read this book? This best-selling book about punctuation entertains while it educates. The English language is complex and punctuation can intentionally (or unintentionally) add meaning to a word. Consider the book’s title, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” or an alternative “Eats Shoots & Leaves”—not a subtle difference. Punctuation is too easy to get right. You don’t want a mistake here.

Reading List: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment

by George Leonard

Why read this book? This book is a bit esoteric, but I’ve included it here because “practice” and “mastery” are at the core of accelerating your career experience. I first learned of Leonard’s book through my own Aikido practice and really admire his Yoda-like lessons. These lessons transcend career and include all aspects of life.

Developing Your Professional Relationships: The Key to Your Professional Success

Developing your own professional network will lead to more success than almost anything else you do in your career.

Developing relationships with people who want to and are able to help you is a worthwhile investment of your time and resources. These are the people who will help when you need it most. is is a long-term investment of your time in building relationships with other people. Your professional network will be developed and maintained over your entire career.

Your professional network will be developed and maintained over your entire career. Actively participate in your network and help others, as you would like others to help you. Maintain these business relationships in good times and bad—while you are fully employed, unemployed, or in between. A strong professional network is as valuable to a  first-year employee as it is to the CEO. It is as important to someone working in a tech start-up in Silicon Valley as it is to the person teaching elementary school. Developing your own professional network will lead to more success than almost anything else you do in your career. It is the key to your professional success.

Written communication can make or break your career – Part 3

High-quality writing is a requirement for being a high quality professional. Outstanding writing can help make you an outstanding professional. You gain a competitive advantage in your career by improving your writing skills. Improve this skill and your work will be noticed and your e orts rewarded. Here are two scenarios to illustrate the point:

SCENARIO #1:

Your assignment is to document the current process for handling customer service inquiries for your organization and to recommend improvements in a written report. To gather the information you need for this project, you speak with the manager of the customer service department, interview the five most experienced employees of that department. In addition, you review over one hundred complaints that the department received about poor customer service responses and study a white paper written by your industry trade association entitled Best Practices in Customer Service.

After you’ve collected the data, underlined dozens of key facts and statistics and analyzed the research, you are ready to write the report. Now imagine this—you’ve broken your arm and are not able to compile the report yourself. Your manager arranges for you to collaborate with a colleague. Would you rather collaborate with your colleague, Bill, who majored in English or your colleague, Kimberly, who was a math major? Even though the underlying work, including your data and research, is the same, which team—you and the English major or you and the math major—will likely produce a higher quality, written report?

SCENARIO #2:

You and your co-worker are given similar assignments—analyze and then write a report about the products offered by your company’s top competitors in the marketplace. You research the available products, read online customer reviews, study media reports, and analyze all other publically- available information you can nd. You spend over 40 hours on research and analysis. By your estimate, your co-worker has spent about half that amount of time. While you were skipping lunch and eating dinner at your desk, he was taking long lunches and leaving the office at 5 p.m. every day. The deadline arrives and you each submit your written reports. Your report is ten pages long and includes twelve graphs. Unfortunately, it also includes two typos and a few grammatical errors.

The deadline arrives and you each submit your written reports. Your report is ten pages long and includes twelve graphs. Unfortunately, it also includes two typos and a few grammatical errors. Your colleague writes a ve-page report with three key graphs, an executive summary, and no typos or grammatical errors. Which report will be more favorably judged? What assumptions will people make about the quality of the research that went into writing each report? What will people assume (rightly or wrongly) about the underlying skills of the person who wrote each report?

During the course of a single year, you could be called upon to write many reports, dozens of presentations, and thousands of emails, letters, and other correspondence. It’s not hard to see that if your written communication regularly contains grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes, is excessively wordy, or fails to effectively communicate the main idea, your performance appraisals will be negatively impacted.

Your written communication will leave a lasting impression. Emails are read, then re-read, and forwarded. Mistakes in grammar, punc- tuation, and spelling will leave a negative impression among your co-workers, bosses, and clients. In some ways, written communication is more hazardous than verbal communication because it leaves behind a trail of evidence and may cement a negative impression of you.

Written communication can make or break your career – Part 2

When you graduated, you may have felt a sense of relief that term papers and other written assignments were behind you. In fact, many graduates choose careers in accounting, engineering, or computer science because they didn’t like classes that required a lot of writing. If you are one of these people, I have some bad news. As a professional in any industry, writing is one of the most important skills. Writing is the primary form of workplace communication. So, if you think you are finished with writing because you graduated from college, think again. e good news is that like the other skills in this book, written communication can be practiced and improved.

Here’s more good news. Generally, the average quality of written communication in the workplace is just that—average. With some consistent practice and mastery of a few simple grammar and punctuation rules, the quality of your writing will improve and you’ll stand out among your peers.

Read Part 3 of this post –>

Written communication can make or break your career – Part 1

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let then think you were born that way.” – Ernest Hemingway

Written communication can make or break your career. The importance of your ability to write clearly, concisely, and correctly cannot be emphasized enough. For better or worse, the quality of your written communication will directly reflect on your underlying talent and ability. e better you write, the more competent people will think you are. Consider this very common scenario: Your supervisor asks you to draft a presentation for an important meeting. It may be to introduce a new product, to analyze your organization’s competitors in a new market, or to research a new government policy. This is the first major assignment for which you’ve been given primary responsibility. Naturally, you are eager to do well and impress your supervisor and colleagues.

You begin with online research. You study data from a re- cent survey and analyze public documents. You read dozens of relevant news stories. After a full week of collecting and analyzing facts and figures, you are ready to document your research and conclusions in a presentation to your supervisor and colleagues. While you may have done outstanding research and analyzed vast quantities of data, unless you can produce an equally high quality, written summary of your conclusions, your hard work won’t matter. You will be judged based only on the end product, the presentation. And if that presentation is poorly written, all of your research and analysis will fall under the same negative shadow. You cannot escape it. Poor quality written communication in the workplace is a career black hole —a nearly inescapable trap—that can break your career.

Read Part 2 of this post. –>

NAME TAGS DON’T DESERVE MUCH THOUGHT, RIGHT? WRONG!

At a networking event, you will meet people for the first time and you want to give them the maximum opportunity to remember your name. Attach your nametag very high on your right lapel. Do this because you are usually extending your right hand to shake, so that side of your body will also be slightly extended forward. This makes it easier for the person to read your nametag without having to look across your body.

The Key for Your Success

Professional success in every industry is a team effort. Who is on your team?

Most successful people will say that networking has played an important role in their careers. I would challenge anyone who claims that his or her success was completely self-determined. No matter what your career, a professional network can be extremely helpful.

Actors, athletes, artists, and musicians, in addition to business people, civil servants, politicians, medical professionals, lawyers, teachers, doctors, and not-for-pro t professionals all bene t from the relationships nurtured by a robust professional network.

Professional success in every industry is a team e ort. Your team or your professional network may include people within your own organization, your industry, or related industries. It may also include your business partners, former colleagues, col- lege classmates, and people who belong to the same professional associations.

Reading List: Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, Katie Yezzi

Why read this book? If you question the value of practice in your career, this is a MUST read. Many of the rules will show you how to set up practice routines for skills where the solution is not obvious. Rules most applicable to accelerating your career experience include: #1 Encode Success, #4 Unlock Creativity . . . With Repetition, #7 Differentiate Drill From Scimmage, #9 Analyze the Game, and #10 Isolate the Skill.