Speaking Up

Recently, I was asked to participate in an evaluation of presentation skills for one of our senior leaders. The questionnaire included questions that I expected – “speaks concisely” – but also some that I didn’t. After I completedthe survey, I started to think about my own presentation strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of my thoughts.

“Proves key points.” This took me aback. What does that mean, “prove?” I shouldn’t have to prove anything – when I’m teaching Lean or Six Sigma concepts, the audience should accept whatever I tell them, because obviously, I’m an expert! And when I’m presenting projects, I’mthe Black Belt so you should accept whatever I say. But — in thinking about this, I need to remember my own response to so-called experts. I’m usually open-minded at the beginning of any presentation, but I do wait for key indicators that the speaker has enough knowledge and experience to back up their talk. For example, I’ve attended presentations where the speaker was just reading the slides – including the typographical errors. Now that’s poor. To strengthen my own presentations, I’ll try to blend in experiences and stories that make the point (concisely!).

Handpicked Content:   Goals and Process Capability

“Uses a pleasant speaking tone.” Do I tend to drone on and on? Should any lecture-type presentation last longer than 10 – 15 minutes without some kind of a break? To strengthen my own presentations, I’ll try to stop frequently to ask for members of the audience to share experiences; and I’ll be alert to signs of “listeners’ fatigue” – restlessness, excessive Blackberrying, and side conversations.

“Talkswithout using spacers such as ’um.’ or ’er.’ ” Uh-oh. How many times do I, like, not pay attention to, um, all those little, mmm, habits that are invisible to me, but, like, so annoying to my, umm, audience? Time for a process check by a fellow Black Belt the next time I teach or present. If I’m really brave, I’ll tape myself.

“Uses appropriate hand gestures.” OK, now I’m in real trouble. I don’t talk without using my arms and hands. Am I being expressive, or just silly? Am I distracting from the content? Guess I’ll ask my fellow Black Belt to take notes on this for me, too.

The survey, although intended to benefit an associate, turned out to be my own “aha” moment for the week. Anyone having tips for more effective presentations, be sure to share with the rest of us!

Comments 2

  1. Ron

    Nice blog! I recently began to study Neural Linguistic Programming (NLP) by reading a book called NLP in Business – Sue Knight is author. She talks a lot about relating to people and how we all communicate best on certain "channels." Some people like the "auditory" channel (.i.e. I hear what you’re saying…), some like the visual channel (i.e. I see what you are saying), and some like this kinistetic (spell?) channel (i.e. I just feel like…). Do a test and really listen to people and you will see how they like to communicate. Once you know this… then you should do your best to "match" this and communicate in the same way. Once you figure this out… then you move to reading the eyes! Cool stuff… check it out if you are interested.

  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks for your comments Ron! My first introduction to NLP was in the book, "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" by SuzetteHaden Elgin. She includes a section on "preferred sensory modes" that opened my eyes (visual) to the hard facts (touch) about how to effectively listen (hearing). When you pay attention to the common phrases we use every day, it’s amazing how many reflect the five senses (does anything smell fishy to you about this, or does it leave a bad taste in your mouth?).

    Like the importance of paying attention to body language, alertness to preferred sensory modes can help us to convey our mesages more effectively.

    Thanks for bringing up this interesting connection!

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