• All about the humanity of communication.

    All about the humanity of communication.

Outstanding presenters continually pursue these qualities

“Wow! Now I understand why it’s so difficult to become a good presenter,” gushed one of my students in a recent class I conducted on presentation skills. I had just put up a slide that, one by one, enumerated 28 qualities that every good presenter not only exhibits, but also embodies. These qualities seem to flow effortlessly from skillful presenters.

brick-wallTo become a skillful presenter, you must embody them too.

Twenty-eight qualities. Outstanding presenters continually pursue these qualities. Here they are, listed alphabetically accompanied by a brief descriptions of each quality. Because it might be easier to understand a quality by knowing its opposite, I’ve listed those too. You can see how diametrically opposed these qualities can be.

One last point. Try to visualize each of these qualities to get a better idea of how to exhibit them.

1. Adept nonverbally: clear communication with body language. Your nonverbal communication—body movements, gestures, posture, and facial expressions—speak louder than your words. Opposite: stilted.

2. Adept verbally: full speaking command; uses great words. Your verbal communication—the way you speak—can carry an audience: your tone, inflection, and volume, and how you pace, pause, and enunciate. Opposite: speechified (in other words, as if you are reading a written speech—for the first time. Yikes, how boring!)

3. Animated: full of life and excitement. Act alive! Opposite: lethargic.

4. Assertive: being strong and forceful (but not overbearing). This is in between the bookends of aggressive and passive. Opposite: timid.

5. Astute: keen ability to accurately assess a situation or person and turn it into an advantage. Opposite: unintelligent.

6. Cheerful: noticeably happy and optimistic. Simply smile while you present. Opposite: dreary.

7. Clear: easy to perceive, leaving no doubt. Attain clarity by testing your message beforehand. Opposite: vague.

Continue reading 28 Qualities of a Skillful Presenter

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These three editing levels ensure your writing informs and garners results

The advantages of working with an editor kept burgeoning. First there were the nine tasks of an editor, then the five levels of editing that incorporated these tasks, and finally the five extraordinary tasks that an editor could perform.

archwaySo much to consider, organize, implement, and assess. The manager was just beginning to get a handle on all this information when the team leader walked into the office.

“I’ve discovered another way to establish editing levels,” the team leader said.

“There’s more?” came the incredulous query.

“Just a different way of looking at it.” Pause. “Perhaps a better way of looking at it, actually.”

The team leader produced a copy of Levels of Technical Editing (by David E Nadziejka, ELS, published by the Council of Biology Editors: contact me for a copy) to review.

“After a little research, I’ve discovered this small guidebook. It takes a bit of a different tack with the levels of editing.”

“Why do we need another method?” asked the manager. “I haven’t even wrapped my arms around all this editing stuff, and now you want to change it?”

“I think, after I explain all this, you’ll see that this adds another set of choices for us, and doesn’t scuttle what we have already discussed.”

“Okay,” conceded the manager. “Tell me why there is a need for another take on the levels of editing.”

Here’s what the team leader passed on to the manager.

Continue reading Another Take on Editing: Three New Levels

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Turns out that an editor can do a lot more than edit

After their meeting, the manager had a lot to consider. The team leader gave the manager the copy of The Levels of Edit§ to review. (§ The Levels of Edit, by Robert Van Buren and Mary Fran Buehler, published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology, Second Edition. See April 2012’s blog post for details.) Much of what the team said was clearly articulated in this booklet.

bustAnd to the manager’s delight, much more. The additional information would make life easier as they embarked on a measurable program of incorporating an editor into their process. Already the manager could envision a professional editor making their project studies, resource plans, technical reports, and business proposals easier to read and understand, and thus more readily accepted and adopted.

The section entitled “The Condition of the Manuscript” garnered these insights:

  • The effort required for any level of edit directly relates to the condition of a manuscript. Better prepared manuscripts require less effort; poorer ones require more effort.
  • The condition of the manuscript directly affects the budget and schedule.
  • The level of edit defines the quality of the final document, but not the effort required to attain that quality.

All these insights help predict the time and effort required of an editor, regardless of the level of editing involved. While assessing the actual amount of time creates a bit more work upfront, it clarifies the scheduling and budgeting for a project.

A final section described five extraordinary functions that an editor could perform whenever necessary. This, the manager found enlightening because there had been circumstances in the past when an editor could have helped out in many of these areas.

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Bringing measurability and clarity to the nine editing tasks, helping your writing count

As the manager read the nine tasks of an editor§, the technical team stood by and watched the manger’s body language and facial expressions change as the document was read.

salisbury-close“That’s a lot,” the manager finally looked up and said. “Nine tasks.”

The team looked at each other, encouraging expressions slowly dawning on their faces.

“It is a lot,” they said almost in unison. “That’s what we’ve been saying. An editor can get our writing to count.”

They had made their point clear, and the message was delivered, much to their manager’s credit.

“And there’s more,” they said.

“Tell me.”

Five levels of edit. “To build on these nine tasks, the booklet we told you about combined them in a cumulative manner into five levels of edits.” They listed them:

  • Level 5 Edit incorporates the Coordination and Policy editing tasks.
  • Level 4 Edit adds the Integrity and Screening editing tasks.
  • Level 3 Edit continues this trend, adding the Copy Clarification and Format editing tasks.
  • Level 2 Edit contains eight of the editing tasks by adding Mechanical Style and Language.
  • Level 1 Edit, the most comprehensive of these five levels, contains all nine editing tasks; it adds the Substantive task.

The Levels of Edit, by Robert Van Buren and Mary Fran Buehler, published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology, Second Edition. See April 2012’s blog post for details.)

Some problems solved. “Working with these five levels enables us to solve two inherent problems when working with an editor.

Continue reading The Five Levels of Editing

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Nine hierarchical tasks enable an editor to ensure your document fulfills its intended goal

They returned dejected, and a bit humbled, filing slowly into their manager’s office. Their manager started.

“What happened?”

salisbury-bridge“We weren’t invited to present.”

That was surprising. “Why not? You told me we had a great proposal, that we could clearly meet all their needs.”

“We do, and we can.”

“Then… what happened?”

“They rejected our proposal out of hand.”

“Huh? What does that mean?”

“They told us our proposal didn’t read well, that it was disorganized, wasn’t clear—‘fuzzy’ is what they said—that it rambled, was a little redundant, had some typos, and…” the hardest part, “it didn’t follow the rules of their RFP.”

“I don’t get it. I thought you guys had this all down pat, that you were expert.” It was more a statement than a question.

“We are expert in all the technical aspects required in the RFP. But…” The pregnant pause hung in the air. “But, as we’ve said before, it’s one thing to be technical experts, it’s another thing entirely to be able to communicate that expertise clearly, concisely, and conclusively. That we struggle with.”

The feeling of disappointment was almost palpable. Mildly accusatory glances circled around.

“We have a solution though.” Wary eyes. “We’ve said this before.” Wary looks. “We need an editor; it’s not a luxury.”

Continue reading The Nine Tasks of an Editor

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Your editor is not adjunct, but essential to your writing’s clarity and cohesion

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

One of the most famous and memorable lines in all of movie history wasn’t written by the script writers—it was created on the spot by Humphrey Bogart while filming one of the many lightening-rod scenes in Casablanca. Not only is Casablanca stonehenge-2011considered the best movie of all time by most film critics, but its script is also considered the best of all time by the Script Writers Guild. Even with those sterling achievements, Bogart’s ‘editing’ of that crucial line improved the dialogue and the film. As a result, the line endures 70 years after Bogart uttered it.

This is the value that an editor enmeshed with the writers can bring to improve written text.

Self-editing as a choice. More than likely, neither the documents you write, nor the ones I write, will carry the same longevity of Casablanca’s script. Nonetheless, your writing is important. And yet, many of us—myself included—often self-edit and eschew the brilliance that an editor can bring to our writing.

Make no mistake, self-editing often is a useful way to improve your writing. Letting text you’ve labored over to rest for a few days enables you to see that text from a new and expanded angle when you return to it. There’s a renewed clarity after your subconscious has stewed, which allows you to improve and build upon your initial text. In general, though, you are still bringing the same mind-set to your text, using the same base of information and perspective that you brought at the beginning.

Continue reading An Editor: Your First Reader and Collaborator

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A clear, compelling objective forms the foundation of every great presentation

“Where are we going?”

My teenage son and I sat in the car in our driveway. He was behind the wheel, beginning another training session as he learns to drive. No engine started yet, when he posed that question. I just looked at him quizzically.

bikes“You’re kidding, right?”

“No”, he said. “I don’t know where we’re going.”

I sat in silence for a bit, absorbing that. Okay, I thought, let’s start somewhere else.

“What are we trying to do?” I tried.

“Buy sneakers for me.” That’s good, at least he knew that.

“And where might we get those?”

“I don’t know.” The standard teenage response. Then he thought for a second. “How about the outlet mall? There’s a couple of stores there.”

“Let’s go then”, I said.

He started the car, and rolled a short distance, then stopped. He just sat there staring straight ahead. He looked deep in thought, pondering. I looked at him again, wondering.

He slowly turned to look at me, and with a look of chagrin said, “How do I get there?”

I laughingly smiled.

“You don’t know how to get there?” I asked with some incredulity.

“No”, he stated matter-of-factly. “How would I know that? I’m used to just sitting there and going along for the ride.”

Let’s pause the story there, and shift gears from driving to presentations.

Continue reading Where Are You Going with that Presentation?

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Employ any one of these methods to instantly grab your audience’s attention.

Audiences pay attention at the start of every presentation. They want to know the context and objective of your presentation and what they can get out of it—before they continue to listen. Even with a compelling reason to pay attention, they also want to determine if it is worthwhile to listen… to you.

stone-house-dockYou can determine when you have your audience’s attention simply by listening to their nonverbal clues—their body language: they are sitting upright, looking at you, alert, bright-eyed. Ever look around while presenting and see the tops of people’s heads? Their heads are not bowed in deference; they are fiddling with their cell phones. And not listening to you.

You must connect your audience from the very start, employing an engaging and memorable opening, and giving them a compelling reason to listen. An effective opening:

  • Captures, and retains, your audience’s attention.
  • States your objective and its benefit to your audience.
  • Previews your call to action—what you want them to do when the presentation is over.

Consider using one of these techniques to open your next presentation with purpose.

A relevant story or anecdote. Audiences love stories. Telling a story or an anecdote that is directly related to your presentation, especially one that makes the point you are trying to make, can be especially powerful and motivating (no ‘war’ stories though). Tell your story so that your audience not only hears your words, but more importantly, can visualize the story and action. In my experience, opening with a story is far and away the best start you can make. It is, however, also the most difficult.

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Stories engage and resonate, and lead to successful, profitable presentations

Because I enjoy telling stories, especially in business situations, my first thought was to begin this treatise with a story about a poor method for opening a presentation so that you can learn how dreadful this kind of opening can be.

This opening, one that you probably see and hear far too often and most likely bores you to doze off, seems to pervade far too many presentations. But I figured you would be so bored reading about it that you would not even make it to the end of this first paragraph. Understandable.

columns-disneyStory. Instead, I’m going to start by telling you a story about one of the first times I ever gave a presentation, and how I quickly learned how to start with an engaging opening.

The day before, I was practicing my presentation in front of a valued colleague, Philip. So I started:

“Good evening. Thank you all for coming here tonight. It’s so good to see all of you. I’m excited to speak to you about…”

“Stop!” Philip exclaimed.

I stopped. And looked at him. “What?”

“Rich, that is just about the most boring way to start. Everybody is so used to hearing that crap, that they immediately stop listening.”

“But,” I protested. “I want to welcome them.”

Philip frowned. “And fall asleep,” he continued

“And thank them,” I feebly added.

Continue reading Open Your Presentation with Pizzazz — Tell a Story

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Too many presentations focus on the speaker or the slides — focus yours on the audience

The best communication focuses on your audience. This is especially true when giving presentations. Too often, speakers are temped to call attention to themselves, thinking—erroneously—that they are the star of the show. Other times (although far less often), the focus is on the slides. While both are important components of presentations, they nonetheless must take a back seat to the needs of your audience.

Bottom line: you must discover what your audience wants and needs, then deliver it to them on their terms.

irifuneLet’s look at this from a different perspective. Consider the last time you spoke to a preschooler. Chances are you crouched down on one knee to bring yourself eye to eye with the tyke. You might have gently touched the child’s arm to establish a connection. You used the child’s lexicon, choosing your words carefully. You spoke slowly and enunciated clearly. All this to ensure that the child—your audience—would readily understand. In other words, you communicated on their level, focusing the conversation on their needs.

Follow this example when presenting. Focus on the needs of your audience.

Making your audience paramount is the most difficult aspect of your presentation. Your audience is not completely under your control, whereas you, the speaker, and your materials are. A little planning together with some hard work, however, eases the path. Here are some ways to better understand your audience, discover their needs, and connect with them during your presentation.

Do your homework. Invest some time to learn about your audience. Find out where they work and what they do. At the very minimum, find out what they expect to get out of your presentation; in other words, what are they going to do with the information you impart to them. When you know that, you can directly address that during your presentation. Discover what they already know about the topic, and perhaps how you can tap into that knowledge.

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