Communicate with Confidence - Part 1 Communicate with Confidence - Part 2 Communicate with Confidence - Part 3
In Part 3 of this series on public speaking, we talked about many aspects of effective delivery. We covered the audience, the room, and visual aids. Visual aids encompassed appearance, voice and the tools utilized to make the presentation more effective.
In today’s discussion, we will talk briefly about different types of speeches and those things that are specific to that style of speech. We won’t hit every kind of speech that can be delivered. We will focus on those presented most often.
Everyone, at some time, will make a persuasive speech. It may be when asking for a raise, negotiating a better deal on a new or used car, getting someone to do something for you (significant other, children, co-worker, etc.), talking your way out of a speeding ticket, or convincing a customer the competitor’s product or service is just not as good as what you are selling.
Regardless of the situation in which you find yourself “selling” an idea, a product, or action you want someone to take, there are key principles that will always apply.
- Focus on the buyer’s need. Interviewing for a new job or position is an excellent example of this principle. Most companies post a standard job requisition for a position they have open. It may be for Premier Field Engineer, Technical Account Manage, etc. The problem with these postings is they typically follow a format the company has developed for that position. Most job postings fail to articulate the specific need or issue the company needs to solve with that position.
To successfully interview for a position, a candidate should determine what the need is the company has or what the problem/issue is the company is trying to solve. Everyone interviewing for the position will be able to rattle off a skillset they possess. The candidate that will get the job is the one that can take that skillset and demonstrate how it will fill the needs of the company.
For instance, many technical people understand Microsoft Azure is a solid solution for a customer. However, it is the candidate that determines the company is looking for someone that understands Azure, as well as how to work with a doctor’s busy and demanding schedule that is most likely to be hired. This type of information comes out during a dialog. The interviewee can then provide examples and explain why and how they would be able to assist in filling that need or solving that problem.
- Be a resource. This is one of the best ways to persuade someone of your value or the value of the solution you are presenting. In a world where they focus is around “me, me, me,” it will be a breath of fresh air to find someone that is focus on giving rather than just receiving. By being a resource to the other person or company, a partnership begins to develop. People would rather do business with someone they believe cares about them and their needs even if the price is higher than do business with someone who is in it only for what that person can gain. This applies to any relationship. A one-sided relationship will never succeed long term. Let the other party know you care, you are listening, and you are there to help.
- Be a leader. There is a difference between managers and leaders. Managers tell other people what to do. Leaders inspire people to act because they want to, not because they must. Leaders have several characteristics in common.
Leaders have a vision. Vision is different than goals. Goals are the how – I will read one self-improvement book per month. A vision is what drives a company, a family, a person. Microsoft has a vision statement: “To help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.” A vision statement gives direction and passion. This is something all great leaders throughout the ages have had. Examples include Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. All were driven by a vision for a better America and all were fueled by their passion to see that America become a reality.
“It’s not the man that makes the vision; it’s the vision that makes the man.”Mahatma Gandhi
Leaders also have a mission. While a vision focuses on what one wants to become, a mission focuses on what will be done today to achieve that vision tomorrow. Microsoft’s mission statement “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” is Microsoft and it’s employees will do every do so that everyone can realize their full potential.
|Creates goals – setting, measuring, achieving||Creates a vision – something bigger|
|Maintains the status quo||Change agents – innovation|
|Manager copy – learn from others||Leaders are unique – define their style|
|Control risk – avoid or control problems||Take risks – embrace problems, new things|
|Short term – regular acknowledgement||Long term – stay motivated on distant goals|
|Rely on existing, proven skills||Grow personally – learn daily|
|Build systems and processes – structures||Build relationships – focus on people|
|Direct – assign tasks||Coach – people are competent; have answers|
|Have employees – follow directions||Create fans – followers help achieve goals|
How does this help persuade? I once worked for a company where I reported to two different supervisors. One behaved as a manager telling us what to do everyday (as if we didn’t know our jobs). Reluctantly, we complied with his orders while rolling our eyes. The other was a leader. He gave us the vision, we figured out the mission together, and came up with our own goals to make it happen. Because we felt empowered, he never needed to hover over us ensuring we did our jobs. The consensus was unanimous – we would go down with the ship for the latter. The former, the manager, was on his own.
Technical presentations can include briefings, proposals, technical papers, or just presenting to a non-technical audience. When delivering a technical presentation, it is important to be systematic in your approach, understand your audience, define your message and support it.
- Be systematic in your approach. The biggest problem with technical presentations is just that – they are technical. The levels of knowledge of the subject among your audience members will vary. It is important to take them through your presentation systemically building on each point as you go. This will make for a clear and easy to follow presentation. To achieve this, careful planning is required. Begin with an outline and walk through the presentation step-by-step toward the final goal. In a technical presentation, it is very important to have a third-party review for any inconsistencies and to ensure the presentation flows logically. I also like to practice in front of someone that is not very familiar with the topic (my husband typically gets stuck with the job!) to see if the presentation flows in a way that doesn’t cause confusion.
- Know your audience. I’m not going to spend a lot of time here. You can refer to my previous posts in this series for information on knowing your audience. Suffice it to say, cater to the level of knowledge the audience has or does not have. In other words, be careful with technological jargon. Use too much and you will lose your audience. Use too little with an audience that is technical, and they will feel you are talking down to them.
- With any presentation, it is important to define your message and then support it throughout the remainder of your talk. Your message should be definable by a single sentence. Make it clear setting the expectations of the audience. If you don’t, the audience may walk away bewildered not having understood the point of the speech. This message should recur throughout the presentation as a reminder to the audience. You don’t have to repeat the same sentence you used initially to define your message. Just be sure to come back to the point of the talk and tie in your key points.
To keep from overwhelming your audience, supporting material should include no more than 3-4 points with each being able to be stated in a single sentence. These points should reinforce the message you are delivering. One of the biggest mistakes during a tech talk, is the desire of the presenter to share every tidbit of knowledge about the subject. Keep it simple, straight forward, and concise.
Finally, let’s look at speeches that may be given by management. These types of speeches are important if you are a technical person wanting to move into management. Too often, I have seen very intelligent technical people moved into management roles only to flop and be moved back to a tech position. This is unfortunate. Technical and management people deal in very different types of conversations. If you want to move into management, it is important to be able to speak the same language as those with whom you will be interacting.
- Once at a management level, there will be expectations to provide briefings. These may include briefings on a project the department is executing, a briefing to upper management on a technical issue and how it was solved, a presentation to stakeholders or board members, or a myriad of other briefing types.
As with any other presentation type, preparation is key. The difference here, is there is an expectation that you already know your audience, their level of understanding, and the point of the presentation. In some ways, preparation is even more important with this group. Failure to prepare properly, and a snarky employee may decide to point out an error in facts or attempt to provoke you simply because they don’t like you or it’s just in their nature to be confrontational.
To prepare, make sure the material you present relates directly to the topic. Ask yourself if anything you plan to share is considered proprietary information and if it is, get the appropriate approvals before the presentation. Decide how much detail you should include and always look at the presentation from the audience’s perspective and anticipate questions you might be asked. You can either incorporate these into your speech to preclude them from being asked or prepare an answer ahead of time “just in case” the question is asked.
- Status reports can be very dry and boring to present. Ever attend a meeting where someone goes through a status report and puts you to sleep? I have! The key here is to remember status reports are summaries. These summaries should include the purpose of the report, it’s significance and implications, and what action is called for because of the report.
There are five technological areas that managers are looking for in the status report.
|Technical problems||New work methods, hardware failures, software issues, etc.|
|New projects and products||Includes new functionality, new capability, new customer(s)|
|Experiments and tests||New scenarios with new technologies, implementation of new security measures|
|Materials and processes||Training processes or courses|
|Field problems||Customer issues, concerns|
Status reports must also consider financial reporting to include the good, the bad, and the ugly as well as organizational problems. This could consist of such things as excess expenditures, recommendations for increasing revenue, or employee morale. The status report shouldn’t just report on these things, however. It should also offer recommendations of actions that can be taken to alleviate any issues or to move the company closer to achieving its vision.
Finally, when creating the report, start with the objective and follow this with the scope. Including the scope will give your audience an idea of what to expect and allow you to move questions not in scope of the presentation to an off-line conversation. List the findings and the conclusions from those findings. Don’t assume your audience will make the connection. Be sure to include any alternatives you considered. Finally, finish with your recommendations and if required, a call to action.
To make your presentation interesting (at least as interesting as a status report can be!), relate your report to your audience. How do these findings impact them; why should they care about what you Status reports must also consider financial reporting to include the good, the bad, and the ugly aswell as organizational problems. This could consist of such things as excess expenditures,are going to share? Use colorful charts and graphics and keep them simple and straight forward. Stick to a single point of view This is the most difficult recommendation for most people. There is a tendency to mix verb tenses and pronoun styles (starting with you and then shifting to I or them, for example.) And at the end of the presentation, restate or reinforce the message you want the audience to take away.
Persuasive, technical, and management presentations are just a few of the types of speeches one may be called upon to give. There are many more such as group discussions, television interviews, or public relations. The information in this post can be used in almost any speaking situation one may find themselves. If I had to narrow it down to one thing that must be done regardless of speech type, it would be preparation. Just as someone who has never been behind the wheel of car would not take a driver’s test without first preparing, one should not attempt to deliver a speech without out the necessary preparation and practice that will help to ensure a passing grade from the audience.
Until next time,