Sunday, May 17, 2015

Presenters: Are you making these 2 critical mistakes in your presentations?

Are you a presenter who is making these two critical errors when you give a talk?

I recently attended a presentation with a team of two eager speakers. They had carefully prepared for their talk, but were unaware of two major points.

The first speaker came up to the podium, stood away from the mike, and asked,"Can everyone hear me?" Most people with hearing loss will not admit to it. One brave person, however, said "no". Ironically, the speaker did not hear him.  The speaker spoke clearly, but the volume was soft because of the large size of the room and his distance from the microphone, which dissipated his speech's sound waves. To make matters worse, the microphone was a uni-directional mike, which worked only when a person spoke directly into it. The speaker, however, constantly turned his head and body to look at the PowerPoint behind him. At those times, he was almost inaudible.

The second speaker spoke more loudly, but also turned frequently to look at the PowerPoint. The PowerPoint had 14 lines of type in a small font on it. The room was large, and the words were very hard to read in the back of the room.

What could the speakers have done to prepare better?

First, they could have printed out their Power-Point slides and looked at them instead of turning to look behind them at the slides on the screen. Then, whether the mike was uni-directional or omni-directional, they would have been heard by the audience.

Second, they could have easily moved the microphone closer to their mouths.

Third, they could have used a maximum of seven lines of font in a large size per slide.

Ten thousand baby boomers per day are turning 65. Hearing loss is occurring in 33% of those age 65 and 50% of those aged 75 and older.  It is also now occurring more frequently in those in their 20's, for the first time in history. 

Presenters cannot afford to ignore possible hearing and vision impairments in their audiences.  Make sure you use a microphone, face forward so people can hear or lip-read you, repeat any questions or comments from the audience before answering them, and use large size font. These things are necessary to reach your audience!

For more practical and easy strategies to giving a professional speech, click here.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Leadership development: Effective Meeting Management

Your supervisor tells you to be at a meeting. It's a discussion, but several people in the group do all the talking.  The rest of the group is silent. The meeting leader does not appear to notice this.  What is the impact of this on the group, and on the bottom line?

First, some meetings are to share important news, not to discuss matters. That's fine - if it only happens rarely. (Sharing news can also be done by e-mail.)

Second, a leader who allows many people to sit silently during discussions may not know why there is so little participation, what the cost of this is, and strategies to change this.

People are quiet for various reasons. Among them is a lack of interest in the topic, a lack of new information to share because the topic is ancillary to their job (and they may not be appropriate attendees), a fear of speaking in public (and a group to these people is considered to be speaking in public), hearing loss and a lack of certainty as to what was just discussed, or other reasons.

The cost to the company of minimal participation is considerable.  There is a Cost of Meeting Clock, which determines the cost based on the number of attendees, average hourly pay rate, and length of the meeting. This determines the entire financial cost of the meeting. However, think about the amount of work that is not getting done because of the meeting, and the boredom factor of attendees who want to be anywhere but in that meeting. In addition, helpful information is not being shared among the attendees.

According to a new Gallup study, 50% of employees leave because of their supervisor. Often this has to do with poor leadership communication skills. Employee turnover is extremely expensive to a company, involving recruiting and training costs, as well.

What can a leader do to be more effective in eliciting participation at meetings? The solution depends on the problem's cause, of course.  To start, look at the reason for the meeting, and determine if the meeting needs to actually be held, or if an e-mail would be sufficient. Which participants really need to attend? Do they know in advance what to bring or prepare to talk about?

Does the leader know how to control participation by encouraging quiet people to talk, and talkative people to give others a chance to contribute? 

Techniques to resolve these issues  with meetings can be found on pages 10 - 11 of  the e-book, Executive Communication Strategies. On other pages, you'll  learn about Customer Services/Persuasion, Decision Making Paradigm, Questions Leaders Should Consider, Professional Listening Skills, Public Speaking Techniques for Leaders, and more! Get Executive Communication Strategies now and find out the practical, easy-to-use strategies to improve your communication skills!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Idiomatic expressions related to eggs

Many people who are learning English as a second language, as well as those who have moved to a different part of the USA, struggle with learning the meaning of certain idiomatic expressions.
 In honor of the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays this weekend, here are idioms related to
eggs, a common theme in both holidays.

"A good egg" means someone you like. "Put all your eggs in one basket" means that you are assuming a higher level of risk by putting all your money in one place, or depending on only one option.

There are many more such "egg"related idioms. For a great list of them, go to Have a wonderful holiday!

Learning idioms is only one piece of learning English (or another language).  Another piece of this is improving pronunciation skills. Business Speech Improvement offers intensive seminars and also hourly sessions on this. To learn more about this, click here..

How to improve your pronunciation - and why it matters

First impressions are made remarkably fast, and part of that impression is how well a person speaks. Is the person's speech easy to understand, and does he or she sound confident and caring?
People have difficulty speaking clearly for several reasons. Some are bilingual and have strong accents when speaking English. Others have strong regional accents. Some speak very fast and others have lisps or other issues.

Record yourself.
Here are three tips to improve your communication skills. First determine how clearly you currently speak. Record yourself reading for 30 seconds, speaking on the telephone (without having the other person's voice be recorded) for 30 seconds and then talking to someone for 30 seconds. Ask several native speakers of English to listen. Have them  tell you if they understood you some of the time, most of the time, or all of the time, in each of the 3 segments. For most people, reading aloud is the easiest to do clearly, because you do not need to think of the words to say. Write down the words they say are difficult to understand.

Second, practice those words and words that have similar sounds. If the sounds that are difficult to understand are at the front of the words, use a dictionary to find other words with the same sounds. Practice the words for several days, because they need to be spoken clearly in conversation later.

For faster progress
Do you need rapid progress so you can speak well at a conference or on the telephone, when giving a speech, when being interviewed for a job or by the media? If so,  professional speech coaching on pronunciation, non-verbal skills, small talk and  learning to speak slower can be invaluable. A corporate speech pathologist can do an assessment and then provide you with exercises and objective feedback on your progress.

How speech coaching is done
Speech coaching can be done intensively, in just 1 - 3 days of in-person coaching, with a follow-up plan. For those in the Raleigh-Durham, NC (USA) area, it can be done hourly. In some cases, communication coaching can be done online.

Many companies will pay for speech coaching as a career development expense. Some may suggest it if the person's speech affects his ability to work effectively. Others wait for a person to request this type of coaching.

Don't be self-conscious about your speech; if you can't improve it yourself, contact us today to get some help!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Secrets of "the gift of blarney"

Have you ever watched someone who is good at small talk "work a room", and wished you too could start conversations with strangers? Have you  wondered what he or she knew that you didn't about how to start a conversation?
Small talk, or "the gift of blarney", is the ability to try to find something in common with the person to whom you are speaking.  The first skill is figuring out what you and the other person might have in common, such as a friend, an employer, a neighborhood, an industry, or a hobby.  Plan your questions to ask the person. Start with a comment and then a general question. For example, "This is a wonderful convention! What part of it have you liked the most?" For a neighborhood barbeque, be more direct.
"Hi, I'm new here. My name is Bob. What's your name?"

The second skill is finding the right person to approach. Ideally, it's someone who is standing alone (and possibly wishing he could disappear). Make eye contact with the person, and then approach him or her with your questions. Look very interested in the person. If he  backs off or leans or turns slightly away, it's a nonverbal sign that he is not interested in talking to you.
There are many other "secrets" to giving yourself the "gift of blarney"! Learn about how to continue a conversation and also how to plant pre-planned, innocuous-sounding questions in it to see if the person would be a good prospect for your business or group. Where should you wear your name-tag to help others most easily? Find out how to end the conversation graciously, too.
 All these and more are in the concise e-book, Small Talk: Connecting with Others .  Get this inexpensive e-book here! For those want individual coaching in social skills, from eye contact to conversations and much more, contact Business Speech Improvement! How could your life be different with this knowledge?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Small talk: What do you say after "hello"?

It's that time of year when many soon-to-be graduates are interviewing for their first jobs. Even though they have terrific skills in technical areas, many of them from other countries still struggle with soft skills, such as making "small talk". The reason is that various countries have their own style of doing this, and these interviewees are uncertain of the American version.
In the United States, "small talk" is used at the start of interviews, or in pre-interview dinners and other social occasions, to help people find areas of commonality. It is also used to relax the nervous interviewees.
After the host says "hello", he or she usually asks a question, about a general topic. The guest responds, and then may ask a question to the other person.
For example, the host might say, "How was your trip?" The interviewee might respond, "It was great! I love the weather here. Is it usually this nice in spring?"
Think of small talk like a tennis game. Each side makes a statement and asks a question.
Based on the information provided by the other person, the questions will naturally change. For example, if the host mentions that he saw a great exhibit at the local museum yesterday, the guest could follow-up with a question about the museum, such as "That sounds wonderful. What are some of the other exhibits the museum has had recently?" or "What other great museums are here in town?"
Once the interviewer starts asking interview questions, the interviewee naturally responds to those without asking questions. At the end of most interviews, the interviewer asks if the person has any questions about the position (or company). This is the time to ask for more details about the position, such as responsibilities, training, a typical day, or relocation to another community if this is expected.
For more tips on starting, maintaining or ending a conversation, get Business Speech Improvement's concise e-book, Small Talk: Connecting with Others. Learn the secrets of small talk, American-style!

Customer service and sales: how to correct a crucial communication error

The walked into an office to purchase a service. The department manager, who was behind the computer in the office,  gave her a business card and said, "Email me with the details and I'll get back to you."

What happened? The prospective customer, who had been ready to buy, took the card and did not send the e-mail.

The office manager, who had the power to act immediately, was not pro-active. She did not take the prospective customer's name,  contact information,  and details, or give her the desired information on the spot. She sounded disinterested in having a prospective new customer. (If the problem was that she was busy, she did not bother to explain this.)

Instead, she expected the prospective customer to put forth more effort (by sending an e-mail) to request the service. She did not consider the number of competitors for that service that the customer passed regularly, or the other distractions competing for the person's attention. In other words, her reaction was all about her (the manager's) needs. It should have been about the customer's needs. The customer, internal or external, is the reason for the business.

This scenario also happens in another, more common, way. When a customer calls into an office, if he reaches the wrong person, that employee can either switch him to the correct person or can ask the customer to call back. The first way is pro-active, and shows great customer service. The second (reactive) way can lose a customer, or get him frustrated. How is this handled in your organization? Do all employees know how to locate the correct employee's name and phone extension, and do they get training in how to switch callers to the correct extension?

Internal customers also count; the work each employee does affects all of them in completing the finished product. (This would be a great topic to discuss when orienting new employees, or when doing the yearly talk on how the company is meeting its' goals,  to show the relationships between the various departments.)

Every customer interaction counts, and communication is vital to all of them. Make the internal or external customer feel wanted through efficient, pro-active communication and sales techniques!
Business Speech Improvement provides communication coaching and concise e-books. Check out your options now!