Archive for the ‘Communication Skills’ Category

Hyperbole – It’s “Killing” Your Career

“This project is the worst ever!”

“I have a million things on my to do list.”

“This is taking a ton of time.”

“Learning this new software is killing me!”

“If this meeting doesn’t end soon, I’m going to die.”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself using them or something similar in the workplace? If so, you may be unwittingly damaging your credibility by using (too much) hyperbole.

amazed woman with big head over grey background

What is hyperbole?

Hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration used to make a point.  We often use it to add “color” or “flavor” to our communication.  “This software is older than dirt” is a colorful statement and it allows you to make your point with emphasis.  Teenagers are MASTERS of hyperbole in my experience.  At least I was.  “Mom, if I can’t have these (name brand) tennis shoes, I won’t be able to show my face at school… ever!” Or, “I’m so embarrassed…I could just die!” That is hyperbole.

Hyperbole and Credibility

Communicating in a vivid and engaging manner can add to the overall impact of your message.However, reliance on hyperbole can “kill” your credibility. Notice what I did there? Of course you did.  Does hyperbole really “kill” your credibility?  Of course not.  Can it negatively impact your credibility?  Of course it can.

Unfortunately, “negatively impact” isn’t as attention grabbing as “kill.” And, in the information age, when we are inundated with messages, it is tempting to use hyperbole to grab attention, to get heard above the noise.

People Hands Holding Red Word Trust MeHere is where the problem lies.  If everything in your business is “the best ever” or “the biggest opportunity of the year” or even “the most challenging” then how do you separate the genuinely “great” from the “good?” How do you emphasize something worthy of more time, effort and energy if everything is currently positioned in the extreme? If you regularly use hyperbole to make a point, how can people trust you?

Remember the boy who cried “wolf!”?  When the wolf really did appear, he wasn’t believed.  Same thing with your credibility. If you consistently paint everything as a “crisis” or “a disaster!” how will you gain the much needed focus and attention of your team when the genuine crisis occurs?  Chances are, you will have a more difficult time.

caution-tape1Words Matter – Watch Out for These

Sometimes hyperbole is a habit.  We are accustomed to using words that smack of hyperbole.  Here’s a quick list of words that are currently popular.  We often use them without thinking and we may be inadvertently be hurting our credibility.

  • Amazing
  • Awesome
  • Unbelievable
  • Totally
  • Nightmare
  • Ridiculous
  • Fabulous
  • Killing
  • Crushing

If you use these words sparingly, you will likely make an impact.  If you use them too much you will likely be seen as less professional, less serious, and less discerning.  You will be hurting your credibility.

Ask yourself, how am I using hyperbole?  Too much? What price might I be paying?

Professionals know that communicating in an engaging manner is important.  However, to sacrifice credibility for the sake of exaggeration is likely a career killing, totally ridiculous, nightmare choice.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Passive-Aggressive? Here’s Why

Why Are People Passive-Aggressive?-2Passive-aggressiveness, sometimes known as the “nice-nasty,” is communication (behavior) that is “nicety-nice” on the surface. However, the underlying message or intent is mean, rude, nasty, and/or manipulative.  Being on the receiving end of passive-aggressiveness can be frustrating, confounding, hurtful, and can even be the reason to end a relationship, quit a job, or even retaliate.

Passive-aggressiveness takes many forms.

  • Sarcasm
  • Ghosting
  • The Silent Treatment
  • Sabotage
  • Withholding (time, praise, intimacy, opportunity)
  • Backhanded Compliments
  • Hinting

And many, many more.  What these behaviors all have in common is that they allow people who aren’t comfortable being openly aggressive get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others or having “plausible deniability” if called on their behavior.  For example, if someone uses sarcasm and they are confronted by the recipient, they can claim “that’s not what I meant” or even resort to gaslighting (intentionally trying to make the other person doubt themselves or the validity of their perceptions and feelings) with something like “geez – you are too sensitive.”  The passive-aggressive person wants their way, but they also want everyone to still like them and/or not be held accountable for their aggressive behavior.

I am often asked after delivering keynote speeches or programs on communication “Pamela, why are people passive-aggressive?”  Some of the more obvious answers are:

  • They are often insecure.
  • They may have poor communication skills.  They don’t know how to be assertive. (Important note:  assertive and aggressive are very different.)
  • They may struggle with jealously (personal or professional.)
  • They may feel out of control or a need to gain (or regain) power.
  • They may have learned it “works” for them.
  • It allows them to stay in their “comfort zone” and avoid the accountability assertiveness requires.

In addition to these reasons, here are a few less widely talked about, and yet still prevalent reasons.

Anger is often socially unacceptable (especially for women) whereas sugarcoated anger can be socially acceptable. Many people have been taught to “play nice” or that to “be liked” is a top priority. Some people are so uncomfortable with conflict, confrontation and other negative interactions that they will attempt to “keep the peace at any cost.”  While they may feel anger, they are not comfortable expressing it directly for fear of social censure. When the anger gets sugarcoated, that social censure is typically less.

Assertiveness can be simultaneously empowering and terrifying. Passive-aggressiveness can be easier and feel safer than assertiveness.  Being assertive and asking for what you want or need by being direct and clear about your expectations can feel risky. What if your request is denied? What if the recipient of your request belittles your request? Or gets upset? By choosing passive-aggressiveness (indirect communication) individuals give themselves a more palatable explanation for another’s behavior.  For example, if you are frustrated by your colleague’s constant tardiness to meetings you run and you “drop hints” (passive-aggressive)  about their arrival time and despite the hints they continue to arrive late, you can tell yourself “perhaps I wasn’t clear” or “maybe they didn’t understand.”  However, if you opt for the assertive approach and directly (and politely)  tell your colleague that their being late to regularly scheduled meetings you run is frustrating and ask them to be on time (an assertive approach) they may choose not to be on time anyway. With this assertive approach, you can no longer tell yourself “perhaps they didn’t understand.” Now the remaining explanations are less palatable such as “my frustration must not really matter to them.” Sometimes these “less palatable” explanations can be hurtful. Hence why assertiveness can sometimes be terrifying.

Passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Because it is often manipulative and can be disconcerting to others, passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Passive-aggressiveness is also disrespectful to others. The passive-aggressive person is taking away the other person’s power. It can be a way for an insecure person to gain some of the power and control they feel they are lacking.  Assertiveness, on the other hand, is mutually respectful (power is shared.) The passive-aggresive person doesn’t want to share that power.

Passive-aggressiveness can be easily rationalized. The passive-aggressive person is very adept at justifying their behavior. It is their brain’s way of arguing for their comfort zone. Any twinges of remorse or regret are quickly squashed by an inner or story that negates the necessity for change or personal growth.

While we cannot stop the passive-aggressive person from being passive-aggressive, it is helpful to have a better understanding of what passive-aggressive is and why people use it. For tools and information about how to deal with passive-aggressive people, check out this on-demand webinar. And, if you are looking to build your own assertiveness skills, click here.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

 

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Stop Saying ” I’m Sorry” and Start Saying This Instead

by Pamela Jett, CSP

By now, yomedfr17018u’ve likely seen and heard the advice to “stop saying I’m sorry” in numerous blogs, seminars, books, and speeches by experts like myself.  In fact, I’ve even blogged about it myself before (if you want to read that blog click here.)  Many of us habitually say “I’m sorry.” Often for things we have no need to apologize for. It can be a habit. It can diminish our impact and credibility.  And, it can erode our path to success.

Most experts, myself included, will advise you to replace the “I’m sorry” with “I apologize.”  I apologize is more impactful, you are taken more seriously, and it keeps you from offering apologies where none are warranted.  This is a small change that can make a big difference.

There is another equally powerful replacement.  This replacement allows you build the other person up.  To compliment them on their admirable behavior instead of tearing yourself down or making yourself small.  The replacement for “I’m sorry” is to compliment or praise the other person.  For example:thank-you2

  • Instead of “I’m sorry I took so long to clear the meeting room” try “thanks for waiting so patiently as I cleared the room.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry I was late” try “I appreciate your kindness in waiting for me.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry to ask for you help” try “your willingness to help means a lot to me.”

Build the other person up.  Praise or thank them for their actions or response instead of tearing yourself down. While there are still plenty of times when an apology is warranted, often the best course of action is to praise the other party.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Increase Your Influence – Before the Meeting Even Starts!

Pamela Jett, CSP

Slide1Would you like to be taken more seriously by your leader?  Are you looking to enhance your influence and make a bigger impact on your organization’s goals and objectives?  Are you seeking to attain the attention, authority, and respect you have earned? Would you like others. especially your leaders, to see you as a motivated, engaged, and high-value team player who is ready to take on even more opportunities?

If so, meetings and other group conversations present a fabulous opportunity to shine.  Chances are, you are doing the basics:

  • You are well prepared.
  • You participate readily and with confidence.
  • You follow-up on your action items.
  • You are supportive and open-minded to the contributions of others.
  • You stay focused on the subject at hand and don’t engage in disruptive behaviors.

However, are you making the most of the opportunity to shine even before the meeting starts? Here are some powerful strategies to leverage.

  • Words to choose and words to lose. Stop using the phrase “I have to go to a meeting” and change it to “I get to go to a meeting.”  When you use the phase “have to” it makes it sound like it is something you don’t want to do.  It can give the impression that others choose for you and you are not empowered or in charge of your own choices.  It might even signal to some that you have a “victim mentality.”  When you make the small change and start to say “I get to” you send a message that you are excited and are glad to be part of the meeting.  You sound empowered, positive, and engaged.  This is a small change that can make a big difference in how you are perceived by others.  Be intentional in your word choice because words matter.
  • Get on the agenda.  Not every meeting or conversation has an agenda (although most meetings ought to if they want to be effective.)  When there is an agenda, maximize that opportunity.  If you have a proposal you want to make, a question you would like to pose, or solution to a problem, or any other meaningful contribution you want to make during the meeting, contact the person running that meeting and ask for some agenda time.  They may not give it to you. However, simply asking shows that you are engaged and ready to participate proactively.  This is especially important if the person running the meeting is your leader.  Don’t wait for them to assign you something.  Be proactive.  Ask yourself, “what meaningful contribution to this meeting can I make?”  And, ask for agenda time if appropriate.  Even if you opt not to ask for agenda time, asking yourself “what meaningful contribution can I make?” can help position you to participate in a meaningful and impactful ways. When I work with executives who are looking for their team members to enhance their communication skills, one of the #1 requests is “please help my team members take more initiative, take more ownership, be more proactive.”  Get on the agenda and you will be demonstrating leadership abilities and be seen as more proactive and engaged.
  • Arrive early.  There are many good reasons to be slightly early to every meeting.  You minimize the risk of arriving late due to be waylaid in the hallways.  You increase the chances of getting a good seat in the room. You will be seen as reliable, respectful, and engaged.  And, you can leverage those few minutes to your advantage.  Put away the cell phones (even if you are standing in the hall waiting for the conference room to be vacated by the previous occupants) and engage in conversation with others who have arrived.  Stop texting and introduce yourself to people you may not know.  Ask a colleague how a project is progressing.  Make small talk.  Look people in the eye.  Smile. Be friendly.  Be professional. Be present.  You will create a memorable impression by having short conversations with those around you. Building your professional network is important and meetings are a great place to do so.  Get to know people and you can easily do that in 5 minutes or so when you arrive early.

Meetings present a tremendous opportunity for you to shine.  Make the most of the opportunities you have to communicate in a confident, professional, and engaged fashion.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

 

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Leadership Communication Skill: How To Manage a Whiner

Slide1Whiners, chronic complainers, pessimists, and other negative people can be draining to have as peers or colleagues. And, they can be particularly draining if you are their supervisor.  When I conduct training sessions or breakouts for meetings, some of the most common questions I receive from leaders are:

  •  How can I manage a whiner?
  •  Why are they like that?
  • How can I get them to stop being so negative?

While there are various strategies to use with these chronically negative people, including having performance management conversations regarding their behavior*, here is my favorite strategy:

BE RELENTLESSLY POSITIVE!

Respond to their negativity with unfailing and unrelenting positivity.  For example, when a complainer complains try positive comebacks such as:

  • I know this project will be challenging and I am looking forward to how much more efficient the system will be when we are done.
  • While this will take a lot of time, it will be worth it!
  • Yes, this does push us out of our comfort zone. I’m excited to learn new skills.
  • Yes, this is a change. I’m eager to see what the future holds for our team.
  • I agree, this is hard. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

You get the general idea.  Empathize (don’t commiserate) and then be relentlessly positive!

When you respond with relentless positivity, you are modeling the behavior you expect. You are also training your employees or peers that their negativity doesn’t result in commiseration from you. Rather, you have a forward-thinking and positive perspective that you willingly share.  This relentless positivity can make a negative person less likely to whine or moan and groan in your presence.  You also don’t waste your precious time trying to change them or make them positive. Extraordinarily successful people know that you can’t change other people.  However, you can change how you respond to them. Being relentlessly positive takes all the fun out of it (for them) and you no longer will be their preferred recipient of negativity.

A quick reminder to those of you with formal leadership positions. There is a difference between a chronic complainer and an employee who has a legitimate concern or challenge.  With those team members, asking them how they would solve a problem or what they think ought to be done is often enough to shift them into problem-solving mode and out of their negative mood.  However, if they are being negative to simply gain attention or because they like whining, being relentlessly positive is an effective tool.

With whom will you be relentlessly positive today?

*If you struggle with performance management conversations or you want to brush up on your skills, download Pamela’s on-demand webinar “A Leader’s Toolkit for Difficult and Disciplinary Conversations” here.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers

Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Leadership?

Trigger Understanding – Not Defensiveness

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Business Communications Tip: This Question Isn’t as Polite as You Think

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Communication tip Pamela JettYou may not realize you are decreasing your own credibility, employee engagement, and influence by asking one simple question – will you do me a favor?  

Even though us business professionals aim to be polite and gracious, we often are sending a message that is less than powerful and confident.  When we ask someone to “do us a favor” we are making the professional… personal.  When we ask a colleague to “do us a favor” we run the very real risk that they will not take our request as seriously as we would like them to.  Even worse, if we are in a leadership position and we ask those we lead to “do us a favor,” they may not feel very respected, appreciated and engaged.  You run the risk that your team members or employees might believe you only ask them to work on things that are small, trivial, and not very important.  They won’t feel as if you trust them with serious business issues.

Here are a few options for you to choose from instead:

  • I’d like to partner with you on this project.  Are you open to that?  This is a very direct request and can reinforce your ability to be a team player.
  • I could use your expertise (insight, perspective).  Would you be willing to work with me on this?   (Note:  “work with,” not “help me”)  With this option you are asking someone to partner with you which can help them feel valued, respected, and will enhance engagement.
  • If you ____ (insert former “favor” here), I will ______ (insert what you will do for them here).  With this option you are negotiating, a powerful tool, and it is a great option to use with peers.

What are some phrases you could add to this list or “tweak” or adjust the language to fit your particular situation and your personal communication style? When leaders eliminate “will you do me a favor?” from their professional communication and replace it with a more powerful, confident, and respectful option they increase the likelihood that others will assist them and that they will be engaged in the process.

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

Stop Undermining Your Credibility with This One Word

Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Leadership?

“I Hate Brussel Sprouts” and Other Poor Choices Even Good Leaders Make

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“I Hate Brussel Sprouts” and Other Poor Choices Even Good Leaders Make

thumbs downIf you are a regular reader of this blog, my social media posts, or have heard me as a keynote speaker, you know I believe the following to be fundamental truths regarding communication and leadership:

  • Words matter. The words you choose to use and the words you choose to lose as a leader and professional can make all the difference in terms of your success as well as the success of your team.
  • High caliber leaders use communication that is positive as opposed to negative. They strive not only to communicate in the positive, but they strive to be positive and to set a positive example.
  • High-hanging fruit matters.  Successful leaders are willing to do the things that others may not be willing to do. They are willing to pay attention to things others might deem either too difficult or too much of stretch. They are willing to reach for the high-hanging fruit.

With these concepts in mind, I’ve been noticing how often even good leaders and stellar professionals may inadvertently be coming across as negative or setting a negative tone.

  • I hate brussel sprouts.
  • I hate it when meetings start late.
  • I hate filing expense reports.
  • I hate conducting performance appraisals.
  • I hate conference calls on speaker phone (I’m guilty of saying this one).
  • I hate it when people act like deadlines don’t matter.

What do each of these statements have in common?  It’s obvious. It’s the “I hate.”  Hate is a VERY strong word and many leaders use it far too cavalierly, far too frequently, and, often inaccurately or unnecessarily. Do you really HATE a food item?  Or, would it be more accurate to say “I don’t like the taste?” Do you really HATE when meetings start late or is it more accurate to say, “I feel disrespected” or, “I feel annoyed when meetings start late?” I believe the word hate ought to be used sparingly and only for those things worthy of one of our strongest negative emotions.

Ask yourself, do I ever casually use the phrase “I hate?” If so, you might be sending a far more negative message than you intend. You may be sending a signal to others that it is ok to be negative. You might be sabotaging your success as a leader.

Take a moment and reach for some high-hanging fruit as a leader. Make a conscious effort to minimize your use of the phrase “I hate.”  Our world is full of far too much of it already.

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

Stop Undermining Your Credibility with This One Word

Is Confirmation Bias Hurting Your Leadership?

Trigger Understanding – Not Defensiveness

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Stop “I’m Sorry”…Start Thanking

medfr17018
For decades I have been advocating professionals to stop saying “I’m sorry” and replace it with “I apologize.”  This small change can make a big difference because:

  • We often say “I’m sorry” out of habit and wind up apologizing for things for which we have no business apologizing.
  • When we say “I’m sorry” all the time it loses it’s impact and we aren’t taken as seriously.
  • Overuse of “I’m sorry” can make us look weak or less than confident.

I’ve been speaking about this in my communication workshops, keynote speeches, and writing about it since the beginning of my career. So, imagine my surprise when I recently found myself repeatedly saying “I’m sorry” despite knowing better.

I was working out with my new personal trainer.  She is learning how to modify a workout to accommodate my shoulder injuries and I am trying to discover where my physical limitations are due to the injuries.  We often try exercises that I am physically unable to do due to (extreme) pain in my shoulders.  A few days ago I found myself saying “I’m sorry” multiple times after attem
pting and failing one exercise modification after another.  I was frustrated.  I was embarrassed.  I was i pain.  And, I was grateful to her for her patience and willingness to keep looking for modifications.

However, instead of expressing my gratitude, I was saying, “I’m sorry.  I can’t do that one either.”  Atone point, she corrected me and said, “Stop saying you’re sorry – we will figure it out.”  Wow.  Talk about a learning moment for me. I knew better and I was saying “I’m sorry” anyway! I’ve been thinking about that interaction for the past few days and I’ve come to realize that I ought to have been saying something like:

  • I can’t do that one.  It hurts.  Thanks for being patient with me.
  • That one hurts, too.  I appreciate your flexibility in trying other options.
  • I’m grateful you are willing to keep finding new options.

Any of those responses would have not only been more accurate expressions of my true inner state – I genuinely am grateful – they would also have been a significant deposit in her emotional bank account.  Expressions of gratitude would have been a positive expression as opposed to the negative “I’m sorry.”

When can you offer gratitude instead of apologies?  Perhaps the next time someone helps you with a project you can thank them instead of apologizing for taking their time? Or, maybe the next time someone stays late at your request, you can thank them instead of apologizing for keeping them late?

What opportunities do you see to express gratitude instead of an apology?Replace sorry

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

How to Write a Thank You Note

Stop Undermining Your Credibility with This One Word

Trigger Understanding – Not Defensiveness

 

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Want to be a Better Communicator? Remember This.

listening earAs leaders and professionals it is all too easy to forget that communication is a dynamic process that is more than simply the transmission of data or information from sender to receiver. We get caught up in task completion. Our bias for action kicks into over-drive and we issue a series of commands. We let our “talking points” or our agenda drive the conversation instead of having a true exchange of ideas.

If you genuinely want to be a better leader and communicator, remember that listening is just as important as speaking.  In fact, it is often more important. The more formal leadership responsibility you have, the more important listening is to your success. And yet, so many people will say they wish their leader was a better listener. I often share in leadership communication workshops I conduct that most of us don’t really have a listening problem. We have an ego problem.

We let our egos get in the way of using the good listening skills we already possess. We think we already know the answer or that we don’t have time for a long, drawn out discussion of the obvious. We assume that we “got it the first time” and that there is no way WE misunderstood.  These are all ego driven challenges to good listening. You might suffer from ego driven poor listening if:

  • You often find yourself interrupting others because you already know what you want to say.
  • You complete other’s sentences because you think you know what they are trying to say (and they aren’t spitting it out fast enough for you.)
  • You “zone out” or start thinking about other things when someone is talking to you.
  •  You fail to ask questions (particularly open-ended questions) to gather more information because you (think) you know everything you need to know already.
  • You “rush” people along with too many head nods or even a hand gesture or two, thinking to yourself “get to the point.”
  • You fail to use reflective listening or perception checking to confirm your understanding of what someone has said.

If you see yourself in any of the above indicators, it’s time to check your ego. It’s time to remember that we may not know it all (difficult, I know.) And, it’s time to remember that people have a need to feel heard, even if what they are conveying isn’t ground breaking news to us.

We all know how to be good listeners.  Let’s put that knowledge into practice.

For more powerful communication resources, visit Pamela’s success store.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

How to Be an “I-Don’t-Know-It-All”

3 Keys to High Caliber Communication – Are You Using Them?

Trigger Understanding – Not Defensiveness

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Are You Sabotaging Your Business Presentations?

Slide1Delivering a presentation can be a pivotal career opportunity.  It is an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and value to your organization.  It can improve visibility, providing exposure to key decision makers and influencers within and without your organization. It is an opportunity most professionals want to maximize. We want to do everything we can to increase our likelihood of success and to avoid those things that can sabotage our success.

In the over 20 years I’ve been a keynote speaker and communication skills expert, I have had the opportunity to conduct numerous presentation skills workshops for organizations around the globe. Here are four things that you might be doing with your presentations that might be sabotaging or limiting your success.  Take a moment to ask yourself, “Am I sabotaging my business presentations?”

  • Starting with creating your slide deck.  This is a mistake.  Slides are visual aids or visual support for the content of your presentation.  They are NOT the presentation.  Many professionals sit down to create a presentation and open up their slide creation software right away. They have NO IDEA what their main points will be. They have NO CONCEPT of the order in which to present those main points.  Expert presenters take the time to outline their presentation before creating slides.  They are then able to use the slides strategically as support for their content.
  • Only reviewing slides on your computer.  This can completely destroy your credibility during a presentation. Take the time to actually project your slides (preferably in the room in which you will be presenting.)  It is amazing how font size that looks perfectly reasonable when you view it from your computer screen is COMPLETELY UNREADABLE when people try to view it sitting around the boardroom table.  Color and contrast that looks reasonable on your computer can completely fail when projected.  Check your slides as they will be viewed, not just on your computer.
  • Confusing review with practice. This is a very common error.  Reviewing your presentation is great, but it doesn’t replace practice. Review happens when you sit at your desk and go over your slides and think about what you will say in your mind. Review happens when you go over your presentation in your head on your commute. Review is helpful. And, review is NOT practice. Practice is when you actually speak, out loud. When you stand up and deliver, out loud, the content you have created and reviewed. The best presenters try to practice in the room (or similar) to where they will be presenting.  Nothing replaces practice. It is during practice that you may realize your presentation is too long or too short. It is during practice that you might discover that some words and phrases that flow when written down are difficult to say out loud. It is during practice that you can become so familiar with your material that you can confidently present it when the time comes. There is no substitute for practice.
  • Reading from your slides. This sends a message that you are not prepared. That you are not an expert. That you don’t value your audience’s time. Practice and stop being slide-dependent.
  • Too much text on slides. Are your slides so text-heavy that they can’t be read?  Are your slides so jammed with content that nothing stands out? Remember, slides are not the presentation. Not everything you say needs to be on a slide. Slides are support for the presentation. More pictures, less text, is a good guideline.  If you MUST deliver lots of text, data, or information in your slides because your audience expects to have them as reference, consider having a “presentation deck” and a “reference deck.” You can give the audience the reference deck and present from the presentation deck.
  • Winging it. This is often the challenge of the over-confident.  Some professionals will be tasked with giving a “10 minute update” or some other short presentation and will think it is fine to simply wing it.  This is a poor choice. I’ve seen top level executives ramble or go on forever without a focus or a key message in front of several hundred of their employees.  This is the one of the pitfalls of thinking “I don’t need to really prepare – I know what I’m talking about.” Your audience can always tell if you are winging it and often feels like you have wasted their time. Professionals prepare, practice, and present with confidence.

Are you sabotaging your presentations? Do any of these issues resonate with you? What will you do differently in the future? Delivering presentations effectively is a skill that can be improved. Take the time to prepare and practice and you can present like a pro.

 

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Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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