In this digital age, video is king. It promises a more engaged audience and faster, more effective delivery of your message. But are you and your team making the best use of video capabilities when you turn on your webcams? Surveys and statistics show that most employees are allergic to their webcams, but if they use video conferencing effectively when communicating virtually, they can increase engagement, build trust, and speed up decision making. It’s not enough to know how to turn the webcam on—you also need to develop a new skill set to present yourself, and your ideas, in the best possible way. After all, if it came naturally we would all be vying for the anchor desk on Good Morning America.
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.
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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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (222 333-4445)
Have a wonderful holiday season.
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
On 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.