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How Yoga Can Improve Your Presentation Skills

life lessons from yoga

By Lesley Nevills

Yoga can help you polish your presentation skills. If you practice yoga, you probably know that the lessons you learn on the mat can enrich your everyday life. They can help you learn and improve other skills, such as giving presentations. Here is some yoga wisdom to help you still your mind and body so you can present with confidence, ease and intention.
 

  1. Don’t create problems

Watch your self-talk. When presenting, how many times do you tell yourself something negative like, “Oh, I messed that up,” or, “I forgot to say that.” Self-talk becomes part of our subconscious and our brains can’t distinguish between what we think and what’s really happening. Next thing you know, you find yourself doing exactly what you were telling yourself not to do. “I better not forget to say this,” and guess what, you forgot to say it. In yoga class, my mantra is no think, no problem. A problem is only a problem if you tell yourself it is. So stop thinking about things as problems.
 

  1. Balance effort and ease

Relax, let go and trust yourself. Learning a new skill requires effort, and the newer the skill the more effort it takes—like learning new yoga poses. As your skill grows, the less effort you need to expend. Look for that point when you’ve gained enough competence that you can relax, let go and trust your new ability.
 

  1. Stay on your own mat

Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparing yourself to others is detrimental to your confidence. I see participants sabotage their performance all the time in yoga class and when I facilitate presentation skills workshops. The first person to stand up and deliver a practice presentation sets the standard for the rest of the group. If that first presenter does an amazing job, others make comments such as “I don’t want to follow that,” and “Thanks for setting the bar so high!” In yoga class, nothing makes me fall out of a pose faster than noticing how steady someone behind me is.
 

  1. Learn to be still

Be still and your audience will pay attention to your message and perceive you as confident and credible. Many yoga instructors say that shavasana, the relaxation period at the end of the class, is the most difficult pose. When I taught yoga, I could see the constant micro-movements, adjustments to get comfortable, scratching, itching and twitching that would go on during these last few minutes of class. By not being still, you distract your body from total relaxation. The same is true for presentations. If I focus on how you windmill your arms or pace like a caged lion, I’m not paying attention to your words and you’re not achieving your objective. Excessive body movement communicates low confidence and distracts your audience. Learn to be still.
 

  1. Be one with your intention

Keep your intention front and center when planning and delivering a presentation. In yoga, you must focus solely on the pose you are striving to achieve. When preparing for your presentation, start by identifying your intention or objective and focus on it. Participants often struggle to clarify their objective into a succinct statement. Once they do, they can easily determine what content to include. New presenters think that they need to share everything they know about a topic or subject. In reality, the opposite is true. Give your audience only what they need to know for you to achieve your objective. If you can get your message across with three key points—why add more? Many people try to cover too much and end up having to cut information on the spot.
 

  1. Get grounded

Plant your feet, breathe, own the space you take up, and use purposeful movement and gestures that reinforce your message. We spend so much time in life and in presentations in our heads—thinking, processing, judging and planning. By grounding yourself, you can get out of your head and into your body. Try this effective yoga technique to ground yourself before you deliver a presentation: while standing, separate your feet about hip distance apart. On your exhale, visualize your breath going out through your feet down into the floor beneath you and creating roots below you.
 
What about you? Do you have any lessons from the mat to share?

4 Tips for Job Interview Success

by Alan De Back

With the start of the new year, many people decide that the time is right for a job change. Because the market is so crowded with job seekers, you need to distinguish yourself from the competition during the interview process. In addition to preparing for possible questions, how will you use all the skills in your communication toolbox? Here are four job interview tips that will give you an edge.

 

  1. Align verbal and non-verbal communication

Your non-verbal communication can either confirm your answers to interview questions or totally erase the meaning in your words. Everything from eye contact to posture can impact whether your words are believable. If your body language is inconsistent with your words, you lose credibility. A few tips:

    • Maintain confident eye contact
    • Keep your posture open (e.g. arms not crossed in front of you)
    • Use gestures to emphasize important points

 

  1. Adjust voice and tone

You need to adjust your voice and tone to the interview situation. If your voice and tone don’t reflect the confidence to make your words believable, your answers to questions are unconvincing. The best answers in the world will be disregarded. Some tips about voice and tone:

    • Practice raising volume if you are soft-spoken
    • Avoid trail-off at end of sentences
    • Prepare to use more inflection if you tend to be monotone

 

  1. Use concise and clear language

Your interviewer wants to get as much information as possible about you as quickly and efficiently as possible. Complex and difficult-to-understand answers to questions will not help you build a case for your candidacy. Both the actual words you use and the structure of your answers have impact. Some tips:

    • Avoid acronyms and slang that may be unfamiliar to the interviewer
    • Consider whether to use complex technical terms
    • Structure your message in the active voice to make your message concise and clear

 

  1. Listen and focus

Although you will be talking a good deal as you answer interview questions, your ability to listen and focus on the interviewer is critical to your success. Active listening will ensure that you fully understand the questions you are asked. The ability to focus on what you are seeing and hearing will help you realistically assess whether the job and the environment are a good fit. Here are some tips:

  • Do not interrupt the interviewer
  • Listen carefully to pick up cues about what is important to the interviewer
  • Focus on what you see and hear, and adjust your responses to questions accordingly

 

How can you be sure that your communication tools are supporting you during the interview process? Consider taking video of a practice interview and watch it with a critical eye. This is the best way to get real-time feedback as you prepare for the interview.

Heighten your awareness of the components of your communication package, and your answers to interview questions will have more impact!

Why Every Organization Needs a Data Visualization Plan

 

Our friends over at Litcom are doing some interesting work, helping their clients get the most out of their data. If you feel your organization could take advantage of a tool that helps you present decision makers with simple visualizations showing the relationships among data from different systems, please share this blog with your colleagues in Marketing or Information Technology (IT).

 

by guest blogger Steve Litwin from Litcom

It’s no secret that data is one of today’s most valuable business assets, and organizations collect a seemingly infinite amount of it. The challenge, however, is that much of that information remains isolated in individual systems: your sales and marketing data resides in your CRM (customer relationship management system), your ERP (enterprise resource planning system) tracks your supply chain and inventory, your financial system tracks the flow of money and creates statements. With this kind of partitioning, it’s tough to put data to work and find meaningful trends across systems to help management make the best decisions.

Data visualization tools can help make sense of all this information by pulling and compiling data, and generating visual reports that let you take both a bird’s eye view and drill down into the nitty gritty. Data visualization can help decision makers see connections between multi-dimensional data sets and lets you see the impact of operating conditions on business performance in live data. You can also experiment with what if scenarios, which will help you test strategy. Your data may reveal opportunities to generate revenue or help you understand shifts in customer behavior and market conditions across multiple data sets more quickly.

How to get started with data visualization

First off, you’ll need to determine whether your particular organization would benefit from using data visualization tools. This will ultimately be based on what the business users want to see and the level of functionality required. It’s essential that a spectrum of business users are involved in this analysis, from executives and operational workers who will base business decisions on visualized data to the power-user analysts who are likely to handle the job of crafting visualizations. Your IT managers must also be involved and ensure that the back end system will be able to handle the visualization load.

Some organizations already have some form of business intelligence (BI) or analytics tool in place, so be sure to consider the benefits and limitations they provide. The field has come a long way and there are fantastic full-suite providers available like Qlik, so be sure to consider all your options.

Once you have chosen your system and provider you need to dig into the details. Decide what insights you want your data to reveal. You need to start with clearly defined objectives and then work to create the right kind of data visualization. It’s easy to let it happen the other way—letting the visualization lead you to the insights.

Fine-tuning your data visualization can be challenging but is most important in making your insights actionable. Don’t get bogged down in complexities and make sure your message is clear. Here are some questions to ask yourself throughout the process to stay on point:

Is it easily understood?  Keep your design clean by removing and simplifying until nothing stands between the message and the audience. Resist the temptation to add design elements just because you can. In visualization, the best design is the one you don’t see.

Does it tell a story?  Focus on one data visualization per story; there’s no need to create the mother-of-all visualizations. Too often people want to present all the data in a single visualization that can answer many questions and tell many stories, but effective visualizations are closer to a one-visualization-to-one-story ratio.

Is it actionable?  Does the visualization provide visual clues to show how it should be used or to direct the audience’s attention? Before you even know what the numbers say, the design of the visualization should compel you to worry or celebrate.

 


The Litcom Approach
Litcom is an official Qlik Partner. We help organizations turn a vast array of data into valuable information that drives decision-making in a corporation. Our solutions ensure that all data has clear definitions and a fully understandable presentation to users. Contact us today for your free consultation: info@litcom.ca

Positive Tone: It’s How You Say It

positive tone

by Leigh Geraghty

When asked about their business writing challenges, many of our workshop participants say they have trouble with the tone of their message. Tone is how you describe the emotional quality of writing. It reflects the writer’s attitude towards the reader, and affects how the reader will respond. Writers tend to put a lot of effort into sounding competent and professional, but aren’t always sure how to create a positive tone.

Three choices for tone

When it comes to tone, you have three choices: positive, negative or neutral.

Positive tone: Positive tone is always your best choice. It’s not just about being nice—positive tone is clearer and helps us get things done because its phrasing is simpler and it uses fewer words. By phrasing messages positively, you encourage people to buy into your ideas and establish good relationships for the future. Positive tone is a credibility builder.

Negative tone: Negative tone tends to make the reader feel angry and defensive, and may damage your professional image. While sentences containing negative expressions might lead to compliance, they rarely result in happy cooperation. Negative tone can also makes your message difficult to understand and remember.

Neutral tone: Neutral tone is the absence of positive or negative language. Neutral tone has no feeling—just the facts. While this might seem innocent enough, neutral tone carries a risk of being interpreted negatively, depending on the mood of the reader. In fact, neutral tone can come across as cold, or even chilling.

In business writing, positive tone is always your best choice—even when the message is negative. Always write with a focus on trying to help the reader and build the relationship, even if you’re annoyed.

How to create a positive tone

Tone is conveyed through your choice of words and phrases, your viewpoint, and how you put words and phrases together. Here are some tips for writing in a positive tone:

  1. Avoid using negative trigger words such as:
argue

bad

but

careless

complain

dangerous

debt

defect

delay

difficult

doubt

effort

error

fail

fault

however

liability

mistake

marked

must

not

never

obvious

problem

reject

sadly

should

stop

terrible

unfortunately

waste

wrong

  1. Use these positive words instead:
benefit

bonus

bright

clear

easy

effective

energy

ensure

fast

focused

now

please

powerful

save

simple

strong

  1. Use the positive form of the sentence. Instead of “Don’t forget to book a meeting room,” deliver the message positively: “Remember to book a meeting room.”
  1. Rather than focusing on the problem, focus on the solution or action. For example, change “I’m sorry we cannot discuss a cap on selling prices because the key decision maker is not available until Monday,” to “We can discuss a cap on selling prices on Monday, when the key decision maker is available.”
  1. Avoid long explanations, and focus on the solution. Instead of “I will be out of town from February 13 until February 18, and will not be able to meet with you until after that,” simply say “I can meet with you after February 18.”
  1. Use antonyms to remove the word “not.” For example:
Instead of

He did not accept help.

The office will not be open.

They were not present.

Use

He declined help.

The office will be closed.

They were absent.

Tone is present in all written communication, whether it’s a choice or an accident. By choosing a positive tone, you will build and maintain positive relationships, project a professional image and more readily accomplish your goals.

Crafting a Helpful Out of Office Message

email auto-responder

by Jody Bruner

Holiday season is about to begin, and we will all soon be enjoying some vacation time. But with the exception of statutory holidays, business carries on, and your business associates need to know if and when you’re available. In our Email Essentials workshop, we teach you how to use your out of office notification effectively to communicate your absence any time you’re away. This helps you manage expectations and helps your clients and colleagues avoid the frustration of expecting a quick response while you’re away. If your autoresponder is clear, complete, and gives your readers the information they need, they will be grateful.

What information should you include in your out of office email? This depends on your role in the company and the industry you’re in. Consider these ideas when you think about what your network needs to know:

  • The dates of your absence, and especially the date of your return. I always appreciate it if the writer spells out the dates (I’ll return Tuesday, January 3rd instead of 01/03/17). Be precise—avoid saying you’ll be gone for two weeks or returning next Monday. Instead, say you’ll return on January 3rd.
  • Who to contact for an urgent matter. An out of office message might offer contact information for someone who can handle an emergency in your absence. This gives a sender with an urgent issue the ability to move forward. If you work in a large company and have a few staff members on your team handling different areas, include a list of relevant names, email addresses and phone numbers.
  • If you’ll be checking your inbox. Let people know if and how frequently you’ll be checking email (once a week, once a day, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc.) and when they can expect a response to urgent requests. Of course, this means you have to follow through as promised.
  • The reason for your absence. This isn’t always necessary, but it might be a good idea to let people know if you’re on vacation or on a business trip. If you’re at a conference or taking a course to improve yourself by building skills or knowledge, explaining this in your out of office message only builds your credibility.
  • Make sure your message is complete, concise and correct. Use white space and bullets if needed. I always appreciate being able to quickly scan a message to find the information I’m looking for.

Here are some examples:

Example 1

Vacation Alert!

I will be away until Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017.

I’ll be checking email occasionally and will have limited ability to respond. If this is an urgent matter, please contact Jane Smith at jane.smith@company.com (222 333-4445)

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Sandra Johnson

Example 2

Thanks for your note.

I’m away at a plain language conference from Monday, November 28th to Friday, December 2nd. I will respond to your email when I’m back on Monday, December 5th.

If you’d like to speak to someone right away, please contact Francine Melody at 222 333-4444.

While we’re on the topic of vacation alerts, our office is gearing up to slow down for the holidays. Wavelength offices will be closing on Tuesday, December 27th and opening again on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Have a great holiday season and a happy New Year!

5 Things to Know About Your Non-Technical Audience

presentation to non-technical audience

by Jody Bruner

Technical writers often find themselves needing to make important recommendations to clients or business readers who have little or no technical knowledge. Being able to get through to a non-technical audience is crucial because you need them to quickly make the right decisions for the right reasons. Missing the mark can derail important projects, hinder progress and erode your credibility.

The secret to communicating with your non-technical audience is having a deep understanding of their needs and prior knowledge, and using this knowledge to plan your message strategically. Knowing your audience helps you satisfy their needs without compromising the integrity of your message.

The following questions come from our Writing Technical Reports workshop’s Situational Analysis. It’s a tool for analyzing your purpose, audience and context as you create your message.

  1. What does your audience know about the topic?
    Assume they know much less than you do, even if they are technical. As the person preparing the recommendation, you have the advantage of having immersed yourself in the topic, so you know more than anybody. We recommend assuming your audience is ignorant, but not stupid. There’s a big difference in this distinction! By assuming ignorance, you give your audience the information they need without dumbing it down or being disrespectful.
  2. How much detail do they want?
    As the writer, you likely find your topic interesting and have invested a lot of time and energy in it. It’s human nature to want to share and take your audience through your thought process. But they are not as interested as you are, so don’t burden them with too much detail, especially up front. The audience is most interested in the results of your analysis, so put your findings up front. Tell them what you want from them, how they will benefit and, if relevant, what it will cost. Then, in the body of your talk or report, support your recommendation and its benefits with the necessary detail.
  3. What are their strategic goals?
    Consider how your recommendation will further your audience’s agenda. Are they looking to improve productivity? Increase revenue? Solve a specific problem? Have you identified an opportunity? Link your recommendation explicitly to your audience’s strategic goals.
  4. What are their fears and frustrations?
    Your decision makers want to look good to the people they report to—shareholders, senior executives, or clients. They want to make good decisions as quickly and painlessly as possible. A clearly presented proposal gives your audience the confidence they need to know they’re making the right decision.
  5. What objections do you anticipate?
    As you build a comprehensive profile of your audience, you will see your message from their point of view. You’ll be able to anticipate and address their questions and concerns. This deep preparation gives you confidence in your message and gives your audience confidence in you.

Using these questions to profile your audience before you start writing your report or presentation is the best way to stay focused on what they need to hear as opposed to what you want to say.

If you or your team could benefit from learning more about this and other tools for communicating to non-technical audiences, please contact us to learn more.

10 Tips for New Grads: How to Succeed at Your First Job

communicating first job

by Jody Bruner

Last post we discussed how high impact writing can help land your dream job. Here, we are going to focus in on newly graduated millennials. While an astonishing 87% of new graduates see themselves as prepared to enter the workforce with the skills they gained from their education, hiring managers don’t agree.

A recently released study from PayScale (an on-demand compensation data and software company) and Future Workplace (an executive development firm) shows that 44% of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among college graduates, and 39% feel presentation skills is the second most lacking.

Communicating on the job is different from the communicating you did at school. You’re not writing or speaking to show your understanding or that you can argue a position in the same way you did while you were in school. Still, once you are working, you’ll find your day is full of communicating: writing emails, having conversations and thinking critically to move projects forward. Mastering these skills is what we teach.

Here’s some advice to pass on to any new grads you know.

Writing tips 

  1. Many boomers feel your writing skills have been destroyed by text and instant messaging. That’s not true, of course, but it’s important to match your writing style to your reader. Use IM style when you’re writing to a peer, but standard English when writing to your boss or a client. Be smart about it.
  2. Not sure what standard English is? For starters, be certain your grammar is correct. If you’re doubtful about a sentence’s grammaticality, turn it into two simple sentences. It’s always better to be simple and grammatical than complex and ungrammatical. Curious about grammar? Learn one rule each month. There aren’t that many, and you’ll probably learn them all in one year.
  3. Get to the point when crafting your message. Avoid rambling and try not to bury your key message. Look at your message from your reader’s point of view and ask yourself what information would be most interesting and useful to them.
  4. Writing an email? Make your subject line descriptive so the reader will know what the message is about and what they need to do with it.
  5. Make your message look inviting. Use whitespace, headings and lists.

Presentation tips

  1. Video yourself to see your strengths and weaknesses. Do you speak in a monotone? Do you use fillers such as like, um, ah, you know? Do you have any distracting physical habits?
  2. Rehearse a lot! The better you know your message, the more confident you will be when delivering it.
  3. Remember you’re the presentation, not your PowerPoint presentation. Avoid a closed captioned deck. If your audience can read along, what the point of presenting?
  4. Involve your audience. Ask them questions and invite them to ask questions.
  5. Ensure your words, voice, tone and body language are in synch.

I’ll add the advice I always gave my own kids as they were growing up: always offer a firm handshake, smile, and make eye contact when you meet people.

What’s the best advice you either give your own kids or received from someone you respect?

High Impact Writing and Your Job Search

high impact writing job search

by Alan De Back

Over many years as a career coach, I’ve discovered that the most qualified person does not always land the job. You may have great credentials, but your lack of high impact writing skills could eliminate you from consideration.

How you present yourself in writing is critical to making the first cut. Whether writing a resume or editing your LinkedIn profile, a high impact writing style sends a message of energy, enthusiasm, and professionalism.

What are the most important elements of a high impact writing style?

  • Use active voice. Active voice conveys energy and gives you the opportunity to “own” your accomplishments. You will also express yourself more clearly and concisely. Here is the difference:

I presented important project results to senior management.

vs.

Important project results were presented to senior management.

  • Use action verbs. “Responsible for” is tired wording that doesn’t convey the action you took to achieve your accomplishment. Action verbs convey actions and outcomes.
  • Use the simple “STAR” formula (Situation/Task/Action/Results) to outline your accomplishments. Using active voice, you will clearly provide an overview of your achievements without fluff. Here is an example:
    • Situation: Senior management was unaware of the results of our very important project to reduce administrative costs by 10%.
    • Task: My supervisor assigned me to develop a presentation to make management aware of our results, which reduced costs by 25%.
    • Action: I developed a presentation that I delivered at the monthly senior management planning meeting.
    • Results: Our CEO gave me written feedback that my message was delivered clearly and significantly impacted the budget meeting that followed.

Using the STAR format, your final overview of this accomplishment might look like this in your LinkedIn profile:

I recently designed and delivered a very successful presentation to my company’s CEO. The situation was that senior management in our company were unaware of a project my team was implementing to reduce administrative costs by 10%. My boss asked me to develop a presentation outlining how we actually reduced those costs by 25%. I developed a presentation that I delivered at the monthly management planning meeting. My CEO gave me written feedback that my very clear message had a significant impact on the budget planning meeting that followed.

In short, a high impact writing style will help you present yourself in a positive format that will help you land the job!

When Concise PowerPoint Slides Aren’t Enough

by Nancy Lefneskipowerpoint slides tips

In our presentation skills workshops, we ask participants what they find most frustrating about other people’s presentations. They invariably say, “PowerPoint slides that have way too much information on them.” Yet when we suggest that presenters design concise slides using the 6 x 6 rule (keeping slides to a maximum of six points and six words per point), we sometimes hear that won’t work for them because:

  • they have to send the deck as a pre-read
  • they have to leave it as a takeaway
  • they can only have three slides total
  • they have to send it to people who won’t be at the meeting and who need a full briefing

If you are faced with similar challenges, consider the following strategies:

Give your audience time to absorb your slide

If you have busy slides, give your audience enough time to read them before you start talking. Try reading the slide to yourself twice. That should give your audience enough time to read and process the content.

As much as we like to think we can multi-task, audiences can not effectively listen to a speaker and read slides at the same time. If the presenter is talking while the audience is reading the slides, the audience actually absorbs less information than if they tried to do either task alone.

Create two slide decks

Create one deck of concise slides to project during your presentation and create a second slide deck for a pre-read or takeaway. This second slide deck can have busier slides that include the additional information you intend to add verbally in your presentation.

It might be easiest to create the full version first, then edit it down to key words for the presentation version.

Use the Speaker’s Notes feature

Create one deck of concise slides to project during your presentation and add details the reader needs to know in the notes section. Print your slides as “Notes Pages” for the pre-read or takeaway. To add notes, select “Notes” on the task bar at the bottom of the slide window.
If you are forced to use a busy deck that contains detailed charts and graphs, we recommend you summarize the key message from each slide in the speaker notes section. If you don’t and you leave it up to the reader to analyze the data, table or graph, they may come up with a different conclusion than you intended.

Focus your audience’s attention

If you are forced to project a chart or graph with a lot of information during your presentation, help your audience get the key message quickly. Before you show them the slide, tell them what they are going to see and what the key message is. For example, BEFORE you show them the slide, say something like, “Now that we’ve looked at the sales targets, let’s look at our sales results. We are above target in all areas except X and Y.” THEN show them the slide and tell them what column they will find X and Y in. Your audience’s attention will go directly to where you need it to go.

Remember, when you are designing slides, every choice has a consequence. Choose the strategy that is most likely to help your audience and help you reach your presentation objective.

How to Stay Limber While You Write

Business woman do stretch with laptop in front isolated over white background.by Lesley Nevills

If you find your muscles are tight and sore when you spend hours sitting and writing, try these tips for staying limber and releasing unwanted tension. You’ll be more creative and have an easier time writing when you can relax.

1. Breathe deeply

When we are tense and stressed we often hold our breath or breathe very shallowly. Remember to periodically take a slow deep breath and exhale fully. If I could only share one piece of advice learned from years of teaching and doing yoga, it would be to practice deep breathing.

2. Stand up and move 

Remember to move around at least once every hour. Even if you stand and roll your shoulders a few times, you will help release stress and any built up tension. You can set a reminder on your phone or computer to help you get into the habit.

3. Learn to recognize where you hold your stress

Take a moment to notice any part of your body that may be tense right now. Check your jaw, feet, neck, eyes, forehead, shoulders, back, hips, legs and stomach. Move that part slowly and notice what you feel. Then just let it relax and let that tension go. Keep it relaxed while taking several deep breaths in and out, slowly.

4. Do simple seated stretches

A quick and easy stretch can be very effective to ease muscle tension periodically. You can do a number of great stretches without leaving your desk. You will feel energized and invigorated so you can continue writing.

5. Let your mouth relax

We don’t realize how much tension we hold in our jaw and neck until we consciously relax this area. By softening your mouth, tongue and jaw, you can relieve unconscious tension. Part your lips slightly, swallow and relax your tongue.

6. Release shoulder tension

Here is a technique to try: Take a deep breath in and while you do raise your shoulders up towards your ears. As you exhale rapidly, drop your shoulders down. If you want even more release, make some noise while you do this exercise. Sigh, humph or say ah!

Do you know any other strategies? Please share if you do.

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