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.

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. –>

How does your role relate to sales in your organization?

Do you understand how your role relates to the sales function of your organization? Remember “sales” includes the delivery of goods or services. For example, if you work for a non-profit that runs sports camps for at-risk, inner-city youth, “sales” might include the programs at the camp. If you work for a national political campaign, “sales” may include a voter-registration drive or a town hall meeting.

Even if your job function doesn’t directly involve sales, when you are a part of any business organization that sells products or delivers services, it is important to have a high-level understanding of the sales function or the way your organization delivers it’s products or services. e sales function is the engine that drives every organization. Delivering products or services to customers, clients, and constituents is at the core of the mission for every company, government agency, school, or non-profit organization.

Sometimes even the smartest new professionals don’t realize that everything they do in the workplace is related to sales or the delivery of a service.  That service may include healthcare, government regulation, entertainment, or consulting. If you’re in a marketing role, you’re providing your sales team with the materials they need to sell or market a product. If you write for a print magazine, your stories help sell your magazine’s brand to advertisers.

This post was adapted from Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career.

SOCIAL MEDIA AT WORK – TOP 10 TIPS

There are a lot of rules about the use of social media in the office. Some are formal rules while others are less formal, but no less important.

1. Keep messages professional—related to your work, your organization, or your industry.

2. Use casual language, but use proper English that is clear and concise.

3. Share news links, trends, and other relevant information.

4. Interact with colleagues, clients, customers, and followers.

5. Avoid slams and unprofessional language.

6. Post only appropriate photos and images. If you are not sure, don’t post.

7. AVOID USING ALL CAPS AND EMOTICONS. It can be an- noying and look unprofessional.

8. Understand the terms of use for each social media site you use for professional purposes.

9. Find examples from social media experts in your industry and learn from them.

10. Be cautious about sharing information that may be sensitive, confidential, embarrassing, or illegal. Again, if you’re not sure, don’t post.

 

Adapted from my book, Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career, Chapter 4: Business Writing. Click here to download 2 chapters of the book for free. Available on Amazon today.

Reading List – Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations by Stephen M. Kosslyn

Why read this book? Kosslyn is a renowned cognitive neuroscientist and pro- fessor of psychology at Harvard University. This book provides eight simple principles for designing a presentation based upon the human perception, memory, and cognition. While rooted in science, this book provides practical advice. It includes hun- dreds of images and sample slides that illustrate the principles. If you use PowerPoint as a regular part of your job, you MUST read this book.

Adapted from my book, Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career, Chapter 5: Public Speaking & Presentation Skills. Click here to download 2 chapters of the book for free. Available on Amazon today.

 

 

Texting Do’s and Don’ts in the Workplace

Texting may be acceptable when you:

• Want to schedule a meeting or check someone’s availability.

• Are asking or answering a simple, single question, espe- cially when only a yes or no answer is required.

• Have an emergency that has kept you from work.

• Will be late for an appointment or meeting.

Don’t text when you are:

  • Having a long, two-way conversation. You should pick up the phone or talk face-to-face.
  • Writing long, complex questions or long answers.
  • Angry, aggravated, annoyed, or upset—the messages you send could be misunderstood For example, what does it mean if I include this emoticon 🙁 in my text message? Am I sad, upset, angry, or irate?

 

Adapted from my book, Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career, Chapter 4: Business Writing. Click here to download 2 chapters of the book for free. Available on Amazon today.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Powerpoint – 7 Tips

Although Microsoft PowerPoint is a useful tool and the standard for most presentations, its overuse can do more harm than good. Avoid common pitfalls by following these suggestions:

  1. Use separate slides to emphasize your key points.
  2. Include no more than two-dozen words per slide.
  3. Never read directly from your PowerPoint screen. Don’t use the words on the screen as a crutch.
  4. Choose a font large enough for your audience to read without binoculars.
  5. If you have a lot of details to convey, provide a separate document (printed or electronic) after the presentation.
  6. Don’t overload your PowerPoint presentations with links to videos, cartoons, music, or other graphics. If you include any of these features, thoroughly test the technology and have a solid back-up plan if the internet connection fails.
  7. If you turn off all the lights, your audience may nod off. Instead, turn off only the lights nearest the screen, so the en- tire room isn’t dark.

Adapted from my book, Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career, Chapter 5: Public Speaking & Presentation Skills. Click here to download 2 chapters of the book for free. Available on Amazon today.

The Best Resource for Mastering Public Speaking

When it comes to mastering public speaking, there is no greater resource than Toastmasters International(TM).

Toastmasters International offers its members a venue for practicing communication and leadership skills. Clubs meet regularly and members fulfill different roles at each meeting. There is a proven curriculum of increasingly more challeng- ing topics, techniques, and formats. Fellow club members evaluate speeches for each other. They also give support and encouragement to speakers of all abilities. Toastmasters In- ternational has grown to 14,650 clubs in 126 countries since its founding in 1924.

I encourage you to join Toastmasters. Each club has its own personality, so visit several clubs to find the one that best suits you. Visit the Toastmasters International website to find a club near you.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 5: Public Speaking and Presentation Skills from Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career