Tag Archives: communication

April’s Communication Goals

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Today in Professional Communication and Presentation, Alex led her students and me through an awesome exercise (and not just for the first day of class). Alex asked us to come up with three presentation/communication goals for this month’s class. She shared her goals with the class and also with her readers on Creating Communication. The students’ goals inspired me to choose three goals for the month of April. Here goes!

Goal #1: Launch an educator round table

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Two months ago, our Director of Liberal Studies and superwoman, Dr. Kim Murray, sent around a newsletter featuring some of our faculty’s current projects and work. Liberal Studies is a large school that houses six different departments, including mine, the English department. Our faculty don’t get much of a chance to collaborate with those outside of our immediate departments, though, unless we take the initiative to reach across departments. In the brief newsletter, I learned that our faculty were doing amazing things both in and out of the classroom. This inspired me to bring the idea of collaboration between the departments to  faculty and management. After a bit of planning and meeting, the first round table discussion is set to take place this month, with the English department being the first to take the reins in terms of choosing, presenting, and discussing our first topic, creating a teaching persona. I am taking a supporting and facilitating role in this initiative and I’m really enjoying the hustle of marketing, scheduling, and organizing this project.

Goal #2: Don’t let the lizard brain sabotage me

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While I’ve conquered and defeated the public-speaking/presenting lizard brain, I definitely feel much anxiety in other situations in which I feel either out of control or as if there’s a more perceived sense of judgment involved. The biggest one for me has to be the job interview. I believe that twice in the past, my nervousness, insecurity, and lack of polish during interviews have sabotaged my chances. I’ll be interviewing this Wednesday and am using a combination of Amy Cuddy’s power pose and in-depth audience analysis/prep to help me quiet the lizard within.

Goal #3: Post the simple design series on Tweak Your Slides

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Blogging is my bane but also my love. I am great at keeping up a schedule with teaching, gyming, and socializing, but I cannot seem to get the rhythm of the blog down. So, my challenge for this month is to post a six-part article series on design. I won’t put a specific date on this, but I will say, look for a brief introduction to the acronym SIMPLE in the next few days.

Do you set goals each day, week, or month? What are your goals for April?

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Melissa Marshall wants you to talk nerdy to her

Two of the biggest barriers to fresh speech are jargon and complex language. We often fall back on big words either because we want to appear “smart” (or we think our audience expects it), because they are a natural part of our vocabularies, or because they are a natural part of our discipline. However, according to Scott Schwertly of Ethos 3, a presentation design firm, what set Steve Jobs apart as a communicator was not his ability to use tech speak, but his ability to communicate at a level that was understandable and impacting to everyone (Schwertly, How to Be an Online Presentation God Webinar). TEDster Melissa Marshall, fellow communications teacher shares her experiences teaching engineers how to communicate their ideas to a general audience. These lessons are not only simple and applicable to science folks, but they are delivered in an engaging and dynamic way. Check out Marshall’s equation to incredible and meaningful interactions below:

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The Golden Circle: Simon Sinek’s Start with Why

Each first day of class, I share Simon Sinek’s TEDxPugetSound talk with students as a starting point for a discussion of what it actually takes to persuade, convince, or resonate with an audience.

In his talk and his book Start With Why, Sinek proposes that great leaders–Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers–all communicate with a purpose, they communicate (think and act) from the inside out. Most of us, Sinek believes, communicate from the outside in. It is a clear sense of why–a mission, a purpose, a calling, a big idea–that allows great leaders to gain followers, to inspire others to take on their ideas and act on them. In preparation for my first day of class in two weeks, I’ve prepared a brief introduction to Sinek’s The Golden Circle.

Do you Start with Why? What is the Why that drives your decisions?

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Love the Visual Resume–Seriously!

Today’s deck comes from my favorite superteacher, Alex Rister. The visual resume began as a fun side project for me and then became a mission–help my students create a more dynamic picture of their qualities as professionals online. In teaching the visual resume, I draw inspiration from the success of others, namely David Crandall and Alex Rister. Both of these individuals have successful visual resumes.

1. She uses story to convey her unique perspective

Alex tells audiences the story of how she found her calling as communications guru and public speaking teacher. Instead of just starting with “I was born…” she begins with a bigger idea–innovation, and then illustrates how she is part of this new age of innovation.

2. She designs unified visuals

Alex uses color, type, shape, and alignment to create something that is uniquely hers. Alex’s use of pink against the vintage images is classy yet whimsical. Her choice of Komika Axis speaks to her personality–this is Alex’s signature typeface.

3. Her visual resume does more than what any traditional resume can do

Alex uses this medium to highlight not only her extensive leadership and teaching experience and professional work as an educator, but also as a means of sharing her ideas on communication, work, and the world at large.

Check out Alex Rister’s visual resume, as well as her other amazing deck (which is a required reading in our Professional Communication and Presentation course), Seven Deadly Sins of Visual Design.

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Is Your Speech Toxic?

Hello readers! I am happy to share my latest deck with you, “Your Speech is Toxic.” Enjoy!

Warning, corny side note: this deck was made in honor of Mrs. Nancy Duarte, whose work started this whole crazy ride down the 21st century presentation rabbit hole.

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Tweak Your Speech: Audience First

I am entering my fourth year of teaching public speaking and presentations; I’ve recently discovered that, as a student of a subject that fascinates me, I spend quite a bit of time analyzing public speaking situations. I like to observe how people perform under pressure, how they work to calm their own nerves enough to let their words and vision fly. I also find myself watching a crowd of listeners, observing positive and negative feedback, gauging the level of engagement, and analyzing potential sources of noise.

Thursday night, I attended an excellent reading series featuring several of my work colleagues. It was an excellent opportunity for some in context audience analysis, and it got me thinking about the importance of audience analysis as a starting point to any strong presentation. We tend to relegate audience analysis to the realm of the obvious. I often hear students tell me that their audience is “everyone” or that they don’t really think it’s that important to conduct an audience survey; I’ve heard individuals even say that this is a subject that they feel uncomfortable teaching, as if they are telling their audience something they already know. However, after 10 years of teaching, I have learned that nothing that we assume is common sense is actually applied and understood by most people.

In class on Wednesday, we discussed Duarte’s Presentation Ecosystem. I emphasize to students the importance of taking care with this ecosystem, to consider how each part of a presentation helps create balance and homeostasis in a presentation.

Endicott's Three-legged Stool of presenting is made up of message, visual story, and delivery.

I ask them to examine how this ecosystem flows and how each major component is supported by a myriad of processes and steps. Something that they often find surprising is that the first step in developing one’s message is in-depth audience analysis.

Duarte's diagram for the three legs of a presentation is a starting point for students of a new slide ideology.

Instead of moving right into ideation and writing out ideas, effective presenters begin by developing a relationship to the target audience. Our words are meaningless without an audience. It is the audience that takes the message, internalizes it, disseminates it to others. As Derek Sivers illustrates in this brief TED talk, it’s the guy who says, “yeah, that crazy dance looks fun” that actually starts a flash mob.

A great starting point to understanding audience is understanding how communication works. In Slide:ology, Duarte uses the example of Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix Systems, who credits his study of communication as the most important element to his success in Citrix.

As a Citrix user, I can appreciate how difficult it is to truly convey what this company does to the average user.

A presentation, though we may feel is a passive one sided communication context, is a two way transaction, an interchange between audience and presenter, a flow between signal and noise.

There are several key parts of this process, but understanding the importance of noise and feedback are key in analyzing an audience and what best reaches them, and adapting to audience feedback in the moment.

Noise can come in many forms. Some noise is external–loud air conditioning, frigid room, flickering lights. Some noise is internal–the speaker’s anxiety about being judged harshly, the audience’s lack of interest in the topic. Duarte identifies several more types of noise in Resonate:

A strong presenter understands the role of noise in a presentation; a strong presenter adapts and works through the noise. But, a strong presenter cannot identify points of noise and best strategies for eliminating noise if he or she does not devote significant time pre-speech and during speech to in-depth audience analysis. Developing a relationship with your audience before presenting, understanding what is going to generate positive feedback is a pivotal starting point for presenters. Your audience is the living conveyor of your message; they take your ideas and carry them out to the world.

The ultimate purpose of this communication transaction? To achieve shared meaning between speaker and audience. Ken Burke calls this identification.

Another mark of a presenter who truly puts audience first is adaptability to feedback. A strong presenter recognizes when an audience’s attention is waning, when they have built a wall of resistance against a particular idea, and how to break down that wall and regain momentum.

Great presenters are adaptive--they know how to read and react to audience feedback.

A strong presenter is a constant audience analyzer who adapts the approach and message based on feedback.  One brilliant strategy companies have developed to keep both audience members and presenters on their toes is the stand up meeting. In this rapid-fire PechaKucha-style of daily meeting, participants get together for short meet ups lasting about 15 minutes. Really excellent stand ups, according to Jason Yip, contributor at Martin Fowler.com, provide a good start to the day, focus on improvement of a team or project, reinforce the importance of focus, develop team building skills, and communicate the current status of a project–all while participants stand up.

So why standing up? Well, we often tend to ignore those less than subtle clues from our audience that they’ve had enough (fidgeting, texting, shuffling papers, spacing out). However, when participants are standing, it is nearly impossible to ignore this all important feedback that indicates your audience has had enough.

So, whether you use the stand up method or your own method for audience analysis before and during a speech, remember that a presenter is nothing without ideas that resonate; it’s the audience who turns ideas to action. Know thy audience!

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