Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A major portion of this piece was first published in 2011. It's importance remains and it is worth repeating. 

Extemporaneous delivery is probably worth as much time as you can afford to spend on the project. By extemporaneous we mean you know what you are going to say and you have the content well in mind. You have organized the data appropriately for your listeners and when the time comes for you to speak, you choose your words while you are speaking.

Aristotle thought that between content and delivery, delivery was not nearly as important. Demosthenes on the other hand felt that delivery is critical. Personally I think that excellent content excellently delivered should be the goal. In life, you will most often be asked to speak on things about which you are well informed. Your biggest problem will be matching the audience to you and your topic. That will guide you in what to include, while you are narrowing your topic. Then the order in which you have been most successful talking to others about the topic.

Task: establish a central idea and type it across a blank page in your word processor, and save it to your desktop. Whenever you think of something that should be included in your presentation, open the document and add it. As potential main ideas occur to you, add them. As supportive material occurs to you, add them under the appropriate main idea. Out of this will grow your fairly detailed outline.

Practice: examine your materials, adjust them to fit you, your audience and the occasion. Let the rough outline sit for a time and then go over your materials and set a final version of the outline. Use that outline to build the visual materials (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.) you will need to clearly make your points. Remember, the more ways you can simultaneously say a thing the easier it will be for your audience to understand and retain what you are saying. Remember, in the "real" world you will be asked to say to a large group, things you have already been saying to individuals and small groups. You have practiced/rehearsed  your speech. More practice won't hurt and will help.

Delivery: get to your location early, setup and test everything. Once you stand up and begin, realize that there is nothing more you can do to prepare. Your only concern now is that the audience will understand and be able to recall and use what you are saying. It isn't important that you be perfect in appearance or delivery. . .only that the audience understands, can recall and use your content. You are at this point more like a missionary than anything else: only concerned about the audience.

Afterwards: what kinds of questions are asked? What might you have done to make clearer what you were trying to say. Make notes and then make repairs, because it is likely that you'll be asked to do this again fairly soon.

Don't forget to make available leave behinds. Don't pass them out before or during your presentation. Be certain that your contact information is clearly part of the leave behind. 

At this point, your contact information becomes the shortest route to getting that raise you so richly deserve. Remember, you wouldn't have been asked to make the presentation had you not been a recognizable expert in the area.  If during and after the presentation there are those who would like to have you working with/for them, the contact information will be needed by them to reach you.  You are not under any obligation to change employers, but should it be desirable from your point of view you may be given the opportunity.  

Stage Fright: Some help

To some degree stage fright is probably in all of us when we attempt to stand up, speak and make sense. The larger the audience often the greater the fright.  But, there are things that we can do to survive stage fright and thrive.  Mikael Cho has discussed this problem clearly and effectively.  It is worth your time.  The article is entitled "How to cure stage fright: the science behind public speaking."

That  sounds really unlikely to any of us who have fought with stage fright.  But, the approach will be useful when put into practice.  The article is great for those thinking of taking or currently enrolled in a public address class.  More importantly, we never stop learning and we are always facing situations that we wish had never come along.  For example, your boss wants you to bring everyone up to date on what the company is doing in your area. This article will greatly aid you to overcome the problem.  So you will have stage fright, but instead of dying on stage, you will survive and eventually thrive.

Cho point out what most of us already think: "Genetics play a huge role in how strong your feelings of anxiety are in social situations. For instance, even though John Lennon performed on stage thousands of times, he was known for throwing up before going on stage for his live performances.

"Some people are simply genetically wired to feel more scared when performing or speaking in public."  But, even that can be taken into account and leave you free to communicate when you need/want to.

Don't stop improving.  There's a great deal you can do and it really is important to you since success often expects us to do things that at the moment we can't do.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Real Reason New College Grads Can't Get Hired

In our current economy more education is important for getting hired.  But, there are skills that you can develop that will improve your chances of getting hired.  They have to do with things such as "soft skills" according to Martha White in an article on the"The Real Reason New College Grads Can't Get Hired" for Time Magazine.

"A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well."

White went on saying, "As much as academics go on about the lack of math and science skills, bosses are more concerned with organizational and interpersonal proficiency. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 200 employers about their top 10 priorities in new hires. Overwhelmingly, they want candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work. Technical and computer-related know-how placed much further down the list."

Even if you have graduated, don't stop learning about how to integrate yourself into the business you are working for or hope to work for.  Working in groups and being part of effective teams is very important to business owners and they are looking for employees that can use those "soft skills" to increase the effectiveness of their business. I'm not suggesting that you ignore learning other skills for which you have great interest and ability.  Rather I'm suggesting that you pick up "soft skills" along the way to increase the probability of your success.
(This first was published in 2013)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


There is great safety in listening.  Fights can be avoided, opportunities seized, friendships built, raises obtained and many other benefits.  Below is a re post discussing listening which is fitting at this time.

(First posted in October 09, 2013. There are many articles published on listening and much can be learned.  Skillful listening is critical to success in reaching our goals.)

Much of the time we confuse hearing and listening. They are different. Hearing is something that many of us can do with varying capabilities. Some need hearing aids and some can hear sounds that are well in excess of the "normal range." Almost none of us are willing to concede that our hearing is something that we should always protect. Aging robs even those who can hear well. How well you can hear makes a difference. If you can't hear the subtleties of pronunciation then you can't include them in your conversation. If those subtleties are necessary for the proper understanding of what you are saying, then you have a problem.

Listening is much more complicated. It includes the attributes of hearing and much more. As mentioned in the book "Communication: Principles for a Lifetime," listening involves such things as:
1. Selecting certain stimuli out of all the stimuli around us. Not only what is apparently being "said" but how it is being "said."
2. Focusing on a particular stimulus or message. The ability to block out stimuli while paying careful attention to specific stimuli.
3. Assigning meaning to messages. Your meaning, of course, but more importantly what "they" mean.
4. Recalling information(stimuli)that has been communicated. There are barriers here that are often ignored.
5. Responding or confirming your understanding of a message. Now you're in a position to "say" something.

The barriers need some thought. There are many and here is a brief list.
1. Rest: the ability to concentrate on everything that is being "said" verbally and non-verbally over a period of time takes energy. After long periods of listening you really should be tired. Don't confuse physical and mental exercise. They both require effort.
2. Health: clearly, if you are sick, concentration is not a reasonable expectation. All you really want to do is get well, then maybe you can concentrate.
3. Physical fitness: in order to have a reserve of energy you must be physically fit and able to think and concentrate over a period of time.
4. Freedom from stress: if you're having personal problems anywhere in your life it makes listening a very difficult task.
5. Drug free: legal or not, anything that affects your abilities think, focus, recall and respond to what is being "said" will get in the way.

Listening is not simple or easy. The more we know about it the better the chances are that we will be able to listen. The question is, "To whom are we listening?" The list is really long, but some that may hit close to home are: children, spouse, parents, grand-parents, friends, fellow employees, supervisors, officials of all kinds and the list goes on.

Listening is central in many ways to being able to reach your personal goals. In addition, those who can listen well are able to help those around them making improvements to the lives of those around them. Listening is really important.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Communication Defined: a beginning

 This is not an easy definition. It appears to be an easy definition and that is one of the biggest problems we have to face. Outstanding minds have wrestled with this problem for years. This is what George Bernard Shaw had to say about it.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

There is some sort of expectation involved in the communication process. "I said it and I expected them to . . ." and here you can fill in your own thought. When you ask for something concrete like, "Please pass the salt," and you get the salt you have evidence that something took place: communication. What about areas that are distant or more abstract and what you expected doesn't happen. Then the assumption is that communication didn't occur.

Shaw's observation is very evident every day in most of our lives. We assume that what we have said is understood in the way we intended and that certain specific result will occur. When things don’t turn out the way we expected them to, we assume that there has been a failure to communicate.

If you have power and authority and you "know you are perfectly clear" in your communication then you risk the assumption that communication has taken place. That can lead to fights, hurt feelings, war, and lots of negative things. Be cautious about assumptions and don't allow illusions to mess up your life.
Unfortunately, communication occurs.  In fact, we cannot not communicate.  We communicate all the time.  Our communication is evaluated all the time.  It is not possible to avoid communicating and there is a reaction . . .even if we are unaware of it.  What we would really like is that when we attempt communication, we always get the intended result. 
If we define communication as “the perfect reproduction of your idea in another mind,” that is impossible. Everything about us was created by the sum of all our heredity and environment and since those vary from person to person, not even the words we use will have identical meanings.

This presents us with a difficult task. Since our experiences and language do not completely overlap, even in the closest of relationships, we need to take special precautions during our communication attempts. Put another way: say it over and over again using different words and actions. After a period of time they will begin to understand what you mean when you say, "I love you."

On the other side, if you really want to hear "I love you" from that special person your temptation will be to apply your meaning of those words to what they have said. Take it easy and slow down. Determine over time what the word love means to them. If we would take the time to experience how the other person means in general, we would have a much better idea of what they are actually saying.

This puts "whirlwind" relationships of all kinds in to a safe perspective. Move, but move with caution and many words and actions. That way you will have a better idea of who they are and they will have a better idea of who you are.
In their book, Communication: Principles for a lifetime, Beebe, Beebe and Ivy provided a workable definition for communication. “ . . .communication is the process of acting on information." You know something and you share it with someone. They hear what you say and they act on it in some way. Those of us who are effective think about our communications so that we can achieve our goals.

With such a broad definition you have to believe that the whole subject of communication must be very broad indeed. It is. Everything that you do and much of what you choose not to do is used by others determine something about who you are and what you stand for. We often try to deny that we can be so easily read, but the fact is that we read others just as well and move in their direction if what we see is congenial. So we say that communication is inescapable. In addition, it is irreversible. Once the idea is planted in another mind, there is nothing short of trauma that can remove it. That's why our mothers told us to always "put your best foot forward."

When you combine several elements of communication together, such as email, phone calls, observed actions, the impact of the communication becomes very complicated. Our communication, intended or not, takes on a life of its own and we are largely powerless to amend it. It is irreversible.

Communication should take up a very large portion of our energy everyday. It is the basic tool with which we build our lives and professions. Done carefully it will greatly aid us in achieving our goals. Done poorly, we will find ourselves saying things like, "I don't know what she sees in him? I'm at least as capable as he is."
Communication is the creation of an idea that is in your mind, in the mind(s) of others. This definition is one that we will follow.  It is general and so is communication.  It implies process and so does communication.  It implies intent and so does communication. It implies context and so does communication. 
General: anything and everything that can be used to communicate impacts the effectiveness of the message. One of the most important is time and its impact on the message.
  Process: you bring your current position in life to the message and so does the recipient.  These positions are constantly shifting and changing which impacts the message.
Intent: is likely to be persuasive.  I want you to like me, trust me, travel with me, live with me, etc.  Unbiased information for its own sake is extremely difficult. This is one of many limitations human beings have.
Context: you were conceived, born, raised in a family, in a community, during specific time periods and those all differ from other person’s backgrounds. This impacts culture, language, experiences and life in general. 
Communication merits much of our attention all our lives.  It should not be relegated to some little visited area of our mind unless we are forced to give a speech or introduce someone.
 (Much of the content of this blog appeared in September of 2010.)

Some Basic Assumptions

(This first appeared in September, 2013 )

None of us asked to be alive.  We didn’t order the body we live in, we didn’t order the brain we live with, we didn’t request the sex we are, we didn’t request the parents we have . . .in fact we simply became aware of our existence.  When born we are basically a brain and little else.  When we are old we find ourselves in the same position.  We are mostly brain and when very young or old, there is less that we can physically accomplish. It should be noted that our senses and bodies allow our brain to increase its understanding of things around us.  That makes our bodies an extension of the brain.
In between, human beings tend to become distracted from the care and training of their brain into other less important areas that are basically short lived. When we are born we spend a great deal of our lives learning language and understanding communication.  We are not overly concerned about running a marathon or how physically attractive we are.  It’s just the joy of being alive and being with those whose language we speak, that is central to us.  We come full circle: when we are old we are not overly concerned about running a marathon or how physically attractive we are.  It’s again the joy of being alive and with those whose language we speak that is central to us.
In between, we often become confused about what is important and why. We feel an obligation to fulfill the expectations of others in a huge array of areas that have little or nothing to do with the joy we once felt.  In most cases, our successes following the wishes of others are fleeting and we are frustrated. 
Our best asset is our brain.  Our brain works most of the time well enough to allow us to keep up with those around us.  Some seem to have quicker wits and others slower.  But, when we work to improve the brain we have, we often find that things go better for us in general. 
One big problem we all have is to effectively communicate with others.  That is the biggest single reason we need to spend as much time and energy improving our brain and its ability to communicate.  The reason is simple: most things that we accomplish in life are through the cooperation of groups of people. 
We are built brick by brick, moment to moment, by communication.  We see what others do and say and we adopt it. They are an integral part of our growth and development.  If others are building us and we are in turn building others, communication should become one of the most important areas of concentration we have. It should be clear that we are building our future as well as those around us.  A sense of community is basic to our success.