Wavelength Updates

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

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!

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.

Still Using Paper Evaluations?

by Jody Bruner

Like many learning & development shops, we used paper evaluations without question since the beginning. But this year, we reevaluated, made the switch to electronic evaluations, and are thrilled that we did. Here are some of the benefits we’re enjoying:

For head office: In 2015, we delivered over 350 workshops. Our training coordinator, Sarah, spent 30 admin hours each week transcribing written evaluations into client reports. Imagine! Using electronic evaluations frees her up from this drudgery without compromising value, and lets us make better use of her talents. In addition, using digital technology takes us one small step toward being paperless.

For our learners: Electronic evaluations are easy and convenient. Participants like time to think about their responses. And they’re used to giving and getting feedback online—after all, it’s the norm everywhere but in the classroom.

For our trainers and instructional designers: This audience cares mainly about the success of the program and being able to use feedback to improve it. This study from the University of Saskatchewan dispels many of the perceived disadvantages of using electronic evaluations and reinforces the benefits we’re experiencing:

  • Although the response rate is lower, the results still reliably represent the entire population.
  • You can expect more comments. (63% of online respondents provide comments vs 10% of paper-based respondents.)
  • You receive better quality comments because learners have time to reflect before responding. We found no evidence to support concerns that participants who take the time to comment are the ones who have something negative to say.
  • You buy back precious class time.

For relationship managers: The report yields information they can use to improve our workshops AND sell more of them. It also demonstrates our currency and willingness to innovate.

For our clients (training managers):

  • Better quality reports – They see a visual snapshot per course and long term aggregated results.
  • Faster reporting – Clients receive summary reports about 7 days after the workshop.
  • Current best practices – They can demonstrate to their stakeholders that they are working with vendors who stay current and employ best practices.

Our experience

  • We are getting a minimum of 75% participant response rate (usually between 80-100).
  • Participants provide many more qualitative comments.
  • Admin time has greatly decreased.

Key learnings

Most people would rather have a root canal than change the way they’ve always done things. And change can only be effective with a LOT of communication.

  • Communication with stakeholders is critical, you can’t communicate enough!
  • General communications about evaluation methodology and specific communication about processes are both critical.
  • Two-way communication is extremely important to allow people to learn and assimilate change and ask questions.

If you haven’t made the move to electronic evaluations yet, we can recommend it. If you’d like to learn about our experience, just give us a call.

How to Keep Your Voice in Shape

Young Businessman Delivering Presentation At Conference

You’ll have a difficult time presenting without your voice, so take good care of it! If you find your voice is weak, or gets sore when you facilitate or present, use these tips to manage it:

  1. Warm up your voice before presenting. These exercises will do the trick nicely. Try doing them before and after presenting. You’ll look and sound pretty weird, so try to find privacy in a stairwell if you need to soothe your voice during a break in a full day of presenting.
  2. Drink a lot! Try water without ice and herbal tea. Ice will restrict your vocal muscles so stick to cool or warm drinks. Keeping a drink handy is especially important if you get dry mouth from nerves.
  3. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake before and during your presentation. These drinks are diuretics and will dehydrate you—all of you, including your vocal cords!
  4. If you feel nervous before your talk, relax your body with deep breathing exercises. When you’re tense, especially in the neck and shoulders, you use rapid, shallow breathing. A voice unsupported by deeper abdominal breathing cannot project and will tire quickly.
  5. Give your voice a break when you can. If you are hoarse from overuse, a rest from talking will help you recover. That means avoiding long, chatty phone calls and conversations that can wait until your voice is rested.
  6. When you’re speaking to large groups use a microphone. Without one, you’ll need to yell, which strains your vocal cords and ruins your voice quality.

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

Hello from Wavelength!

small logoOn January 1, 2016, IWCC Training in Communications and Bruner Business Communication amalgamated and adopted a new name: Wavelength Ltd. Our new company combines our strengths to provide our clients with a greater selection of workshops, more creative training solutions, and a larger team of specialists to support them.

As we move into the future as Wavelength, we renew our commitment to helping our learners find a clear, confident voice every time they write, speak or interact with others.

We are committed to improving our products and services. We’ve already added new people and technology, and we now provide more workshops, trainers, and creative solutions to solve our clients’ communication challenges.

Here’s what’s new and what’s the same:

4 new people to serve you

  • Leigh Geraghty, Relationship Manager. Leigh has tons of experience in L & D. (we’ve been trying to recruit Leigh for the last 5 years or so!)
  • Lesley Nevills, Training Manager. She will support Judy O’Donnell, our Director of Training
  • Brittany Moor, Sales Coordinator. Brittany provides much needed support to the operations dream team, which is having to deliver 40% more training than before
  • Jerilyn Willin, a new contract trainer in the US (Chicago area)

With our bright, new talent and the deep experience of our existing team we can respond efficiently and creatively to your needs.

We won’t fix things that aren’t broken

  • We have lots of happy clients and we’re not messing with what is working well. In the spirit of quality and staying current we’ll tweak existing workshops and materials in minor ways. We know you welcome our being more efficient and more effective

New workshops and services to improve your communication skills

  • IWCC clients can take advantage of Brunerbiz’s email workshops and online course
  • Brunerbiz clients can add more presentation, interpersonal and meeting skills workshops to their offerings

We are taking greater advantage of technology to save you time and money

  • We’ve adopted electronic evaluations
  • We’re exploring using email or text messaging to provide follow up to learners to improve the transfer of learning
  • We’ll be providing more online, virtual, micro and blended learning

New products, new solutions

  • We recognize that as technology changes, it requires new communication techniques. We are committed to staying current and providing our clients with the skills they need to succeed in the digital workplace. Look for new learning solutions in the coming year.