Communicating With Speeches and Presentations

Presentation or speaking savvy is one of the most critical communication skills needed to move up in today’s business environment, according to a national survey of 725 upper and middle managers.
I am a member of two Toastmaster Clubs and we practice and evaluate each other’s speaking and presentation skills constantly. We work with each other to advance our skills. Toastmasters International also recognizes that speaking and presentation skills are essential to maximizing your career advancement potential.

In a recent study, advertising executives were asked what they considered the single most important business asset for a creative professional to possess besides talent. The majority of respondents, 55 percent to be exact, said strong presentation skills. Specific industry experience ranked a distant second with 23 percent; only 3 percent cited management experience. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and included responses from 200 advertising executives among the top 1,000 U.S. advertising agencies.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business conducted a survey of MBA graduates. MBA graduates thought the ability to communicate effectively with another person is the single most useful skill in their career. “The ability to communicate effectively is the most important skill you can have,” says Dawn Rosenberg McKay, career planning guide at, Inc.

We all need to pitch our ideas and positions. If you are delivering a speech, promoting an idea with a presentation or having a one-on-one with your boss, the manner and impact of your delivery will be a major factor in the acceptance of the idea and in your promotional potential. The bottom line is that your idea may be worth a fortune, but if you can’t communicate it clearly and with the appropriate impact your message may get lost or not convince an audience. Your great idea may become worthless.

Communication skills are extremely important and public speaking is an absolute necessity to anyone aspiring to a leadership position. I have met very intelligent people that cannot effectively communicate even basic information to those around them. They are not effective leaders and are not as successful as they could be. Truly outstanding executives and successful community business leaders are very comfortable communicators. They use simple language that the audience can relate to. In fact I find that the best communicators are ones that use the audience’s language and phrases. This only makes sense but is so often missed.

Here are some tips to help you reach a higher level when delivering a presentation or speech.

1. Consider your audience carefully. What do they know and what do they not know? What language or jargon should be avoided? If jargon is necessary (and strongly question this) then define any unusual or uncommon terms (perhaps more that once).

2. Have a prepared introduction for the person that will be introducing you. The introduction should state your name, establish credibility with a bio that has a reinforcing example or two and give the title of the speech.

3. In your openning let the audience know how long the presentation or speech will last. Let them know if there will be a question and answer session at the end or whether you will be available to answer questions later. Explain when and where you will be.

4. If you are going to make a presentation with a slide show then use this to keep yourself on track but do not read your slides and always face and make eye contact with the audience. When making eye contact do not key too much on a particular person and distribute your eye contact about the room.

5. Never apologize for being nervous. It only makes the audience nervous and many in the audience would not have noticed.

6. Use engaging language such as “Imagine if . . .” or “Have you ever considered . . .” or tell a story that captures the attention of the audience as an opening. I have heard some at Toastmasters refer to these phrases as hypnotic stems. They do not actually hypnotize but they get the audience in the mood or get the audience to feel the tone of the speech or presentation better.

7. Use your voice to emphasize key words or phrases. Do not be monotone – speak with enthusiasm.

8. Use body language to emphasize key words or key points. Practice your speech or presentation in advance to fine tune your body language and your animations.

9. Provide a summary and a strong conclusion. Your summary and conclusion should emphasize the major points of the presentation or speech.

10. Do not leave the lectern unattended when finished. Always pass control over to the person running the meeting or the conference or to the Master of Ceremonies. The lectern must never be left unattended.

Delivering a speech or making a high-impact presentation is a necessary skill in today’s competitive marketplace. With planning and some practice you can become very good it. Look for opportunities to speak and present as one of the key things to overcome is a fear of speaking. By speaking and presenting more your will become more comfortable with it.

Negotiating Is Crucial For An Organization

Whether it involves hiring and negotiating staff, arranging an event, signing a contract, agreeing to terms, arranging a conference or convention, or negotiating with a hotel or other conference/ convention venue, organizations must follow a professionally designed, organized, well planned, in depth and detailed negotiating strategy. While most larger organizations have far larger and better trained and talented staffs, with generally designated staff members with specific negotiating skills, that is often not the case with smaller and medium sized organizations. Those organizations often end up being poorly represented by unqualified staff, or by a well meaning but untrained volunteer, also lacking expertise. These organizations often confuse experience with expertise, and merely because someone has done it before, they believe he is a negotiator. However, while experience merely means that someone has done something, expertise requires training, knowledge and specific training in an area.

Often, these smaller to medium sized organizations hire an outside company or consultant to negotiate or arrange something in their behalf. As someone who has spent more than three decades negotiating, arranging and coordinating all aspects of events, conferences and conventions, the disconcerting thing is that I have often observed organizations “hurt” by these outside contractors, because they are often not the correct contractor for their needs.

Organizations should carefully understanding what their needs and requirements are, as well as their objectives, prior to hiring an outside contractor. For example, one of the most common errors I have observed is organizations hiring a company that specializes in group hotel room bookings, to arrange the contract for their conference or convention. While these types of companies can be quite useful with small groups using under about fifty rooms per night for their meeting, groups using more than that, especially if for more than three nights, who are also doing events, banquets, etc., at the property, often can do far better by not using that kind of organization. An easy way to understand this is to understand it from the hotel’s perspective. Booking companies are paid a commission (generally 10%) on the room revenue generated, but not on other aspects. While it is usually true that the hotel will not offer a better room rate if booked directly, it will almost always match that rate when a sufficient number of rooms are being booked. However, since the hotel has to pay the commission to the booking company, it reduces the flexibility of the hotel in terms of other concessions, especially regarding Food and Beverage, complimentary meeting rooms, and many other important concessions. An organization should identify all its needs before negotiating with a hotel, and then use a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) procedure to obtain as many concessions as possible.

The major point is that organizations should understand that the difference between optimum negotiations and adequate representation can represent a sizable amount of money, and when the negotiations are less than adequate, as I have so often observed, the savings is even more than substantial. Organizations need to emphasize negotiations as part of their overall leadership training program.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Product Design

In the beginning…the design intent was clear and the project scope understood. But yea, soon the design begat a new design which then begat another which begat a whole new product and a darkness fell upon the faces of the design team. Lo, the prophets of marketing became anxious and waived their pre-printed brochures in distress. The disciples of sales called the design an abomination and wailed over commissions lost. The gods of management gnashed their teeth in anger as the budget runneth over and rained down a plague of interoffice memorandums upon the company.

Sound familiar? The design of a product is usually what defines it not only in functionality, but gives it its life, beauty, and meaning. However, sometimes during the design process something goes horribly wrong as if the product had become possessed by Murphy himself. Below are the Seven Deadly Sins of Product Design that should be avoided in order to keep your design from becoming a disaster of biblical proportions:

Tunnelvision: Meeting a need while creating another

Every good design meets a need or solves a problem. Sounds easy enough, but the catch is, you have to do it without creating another need or problem. Take, for example, a simple pair of pruning shears. Adding a safety lock definitely solves a potential problem. However, unless the user holds the shears a certain way, the lock slips into position and locks the shears, thus frustrating the user. Keep your eyes open for the effects of the design on the use of the product.

Superficiality: Beautiful design, costly or impossible to produce

Anyone who has any interest in product design loves pie-in-the-sky brainstorming, where creativity, spontaneity and fluid thinking abound. It is fun to dream about the future of a product line and all of the “what’s next” ideas. While this fun exercise is stimulating and thought provoking, you also have to keep your eye on the ball. Many product companies engage industrial design firms that are very successful with this approach, but have no engineering background or technical expertise. You end up spending your entire product development budget on great ideas that are either far too costly to bring to market or are not manufacturable as designed. Understand your resources and use them wisely.

Imperceptiveness: Failing to design for the user or need.

Products should be designed for the user. Consider ergonomics and human factors by studying how your product will be used in its intended environment. Do not assume you know what the user needs. Instead, talk to them to understand what works and what does not. Study how the user will interact with the product and note the amount of effort that may go into each use. This approach is particularly effective when redesigning a product or launching a competitive product to the market. The most successful product designs are the ones that the end user can admire for aesthetics, but not think to hard about how to use. Over-design will result in the consumer becoming frustrated and a product that is short lived. Keeping a design simple does not mean sacrificing creativity or coolness.

Safety: Blending in

Of course the world is full of knock off products, but if you are looking for the big win, make your product different. Give consumers something to tell their friends about. Before designing that new product, analyze the competition. Do some research to determine user likes and dislikes about the products they use and develop ways to make it better. Incorporate ideas and features from other industries to give your product a more innovative appeal. Look at industry trends and research to see how you can incorporate the “next big thing” into your product idea. Whatever you do, give the user a reason to choose your product over the competition.

Transience: Designing for the here and now

Designing a product for today is fine if you accept the status quo. But, think of the products that changed the world because they were designed not only for the need at hand, but for the future as well: Computers, Cell Phones, Automatic Drip Coffee Makers–the list is endless. To truly expect the most from a design, you have to look forward. Don’t limit yourself to how users interact with your product today, or the current environment in which your product is used. Think about five years from now–or longer. How will the user’s needs change? Where else will the product be used? Will the product be able to serve a new purpose? Will there be new technology that you should plan for in the new design?

Egomania: Designing for design’s sake

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what looks “cool” or how beautiful a design is, we begin the design process trying to hit those marks rather than solving the problem. Worry first about meeting the need or solving the problem. The design will come as the sketches and renderings are developed. While award winning designs equate to success in the industry, the true success of a product is measured by the extent to which it meets or exceeds the needs of its user.

Distraction: Solving the wrong problem

Given, product design is usually a fluidic, creative process. But, do not confuse fluidity with “out of control”. Often as a product design evolves, things are discovered and tangents emerge. This is a powerful part of the creative process–but use this power for good and not evil. Stay focused on the original scope and design intent. Do not allow your design to become a monster that controls the project and either solves the wrong problem or none at all. Go back to the root of why the design was needed to begin with. Take the new air actuated corkscrew, for example. The designers observed that the problem was not the original corkscrew design, but getting the cork out of the bottle. Rather than trying to redesign the cork screw, the designers developed the air pump corkscrew, a completely innovative design. In a nutshell, that is the kind of simplicity that encourages good design.