AccuConferenceAccuConference

May
30
2011
4 Areas of Presentation Planning George Page

Even though it can be a crazy time right before a presentation, we need to be prepared. Step one in quality presentation planning is…

Don’t wait until right before the presentation to prepare for the presentation!

Past that vital tip, to make sure everything is set and all our bases are covered, we need to have done our due diligence at least the day before. For some insight on these preparations, I found some presentation planning tips on MindTools.com that are separated into four areas. Let’s look at the highlights:

Presentation – There are two points here that I think are important. First make sure our introduction is an attention grabber and explains our objectives. Second, the closing summary needs to tie it all together so the participants know what we wanted them to know.

Delivery – I like and dislike this section. I like that we should check out the presentations site beforehand. I don’t like that we need to rely on notes and visual aids. If we’ve got the first line covered—“Are you knowledgeable about the topic…”—then the rest will be fine. Though it is a good idea to do dry runs to be familiar with any technology to be used.

Appearance – Practice is a good thing. Practicing how we will present as much as possible is a very good thing.

Visual Aids – Are these supports for our points—or a distraction? Are they easy to read? We remembered NOT to use bullet points, didn’t we?

Does this MindTools.com checklist help you? What would you add to the list?

May
02
2011
What Did You Say? George Page

If there’s one thing participants focus on the fastest, it’s when they can’t hear the presenter. Speaking too softly, mumbling, or garbling words are a few ways a speaker gets in the way of their own message. Well SpeakSchmeak has a few tips for speaking to be heard.

  1. Relax - When we’re nervous or tense, our voices sound unnatural. This leads to low volumes, abnormally high pitches, and even our words pouring out too fast to be understood. To avoid all that, take deep breaths and slow down. Before the presentation we can calm down by stretching our arms over our head, or even bending at the waist and just dangling to the floor.
  2. Open Your Mouth - The main cause of garbled words or mumbling is simply that we need to open wide. For practice, reading aloud helps us hear ourselves being unclear, and encourages us to enunciate and let our voices out.
  3. Improve Your Posture - Sitting up straight or standing tall doesn’t just help us look better, it properly aligns our bodies the way they were designed. With a straight spine, our lungs can fill with more air, our diaphragm can support our sound better, and our voices have a clear route out.
  4. Focus Your Voice - We may have good posture, be relaxed, and speak with our mouths open, but if we’re sending our words to the floor or just in front of us, we’ll still be unheard. We should speak out to, and focus our voices to where the ears are. If in front of an audience, we aim towards the back. If on a conference call, we make sure our mics are close enough and unobstructed.

Apr
28
2011
Listen Up, Listen Well George Page

Listening may seem like just one of several sensory input systems - it is - but it also is the lynch pin for much of what makes us be able to get through life. Listening well will help you remember more and more clearly. It will help you focus on instructions given and then later when you are following them. Listening helps with your personal and professional relationships.

Being a good listener is not something you are born with; you have to work at it. Since all of us are different, some may have to work harder than others. For example, if you are excellent with remembering faces, but horrible with names, this doesn't mean you have a bad memory; it means you are a bad listener. And if you have a tough time with faces… you might need glasses. The good news is that we all have the ability to become better listeners.

Here are some things to consider for improving your listening:

 

  • Accept everything the person says. Judging and evaluating the content of what someone is saying -- while they are saying it - guarantees that you will miss some parts. Take in everything, then examine it.
  • Don't get hung up on how they tell you something. Possibly you may not like a person's speech style, or their high-pitched voice. Ignore how they are saying it and concentrate on it.
  • Don't interrupt. It may seem obvious to point out, but often we formulate our responses and rebuttals even while the other person is still making a point. Let them finish, then it's your turn.
  • Get your body behind your ears. Make sure you keep eye contact. Lean forward to show interest. Try not to cross your arms.
  • Repetition of key points at opportune times is a good memory trick, but it is also a good way of letting the speaker know you are still following them. When they know you are paying attention, they will put more of themselves into what they are saying.

Apr
26
2011
Speechwriting Tips from JFK George Page

President Kennedy's words are burned into our minds and immortalized for time untold. Behind the man and his message was Ted Sorensen, JFK's advisor and speechwriter. In Sorenson's new book, he gives his perspective of the events of that presidency, as well as some basic rules he followed to make Kennedy's speeches so memorial. Carmine Gallo, Businessweek.com contributor, chose a few basic tips to sharefrom Sorensen's book. It doesn't matter if you are giving a keynote address, speaking in a small conference call, or expressing yourself in a letter, these rules can help your message go out clear and powerful.

  • Don't take a minute to say what you could say in a few words. Maybe even before they realize it, your audience could get bored and distracted as they figure out you have been taking too long to make your point.
  • Use words that describe specifically what you want to say. Don't resort to catch-phrases or clichés when a single or a few perfect words will suffice.
  • Organize your content in a simple, orderly fashion and clue your audience in at the beginning. Start with the theme or purpose of the meeting and how many major parts they should expect. Then verbally guide them as you go along. "Our third point of Organized Speeches deals with clarity."
  • Never forget the most important part of your speech is the ideas you are conveying. It doesn't matter how good it looks in a PowerPoint or how technologically advanced you're A/V equipment is, if you have a banal message, you will have a banal presentation.

These are just a few of the tips Gallo wrote about. Visit his article for more or go to the source in Ted Sorensen's book. Regardless, embrace these ideas and make your presentations shine. Your audience will thank you.

Apr
19
2011
How Good is Your Memory? George Page

Some people have eidetic memory: they can recall almost everything they've ever seen or heard or read. A photographic memory as it's sometimes called. These special people could attend or host a conference call, remember everything that was said, and go on with their day. However, even these memory masters have a need for conference calls with a good recording feature.

One obvious reason for any conference call to be recorded is to know exactly what was said, in what order, and who said it. If this was the only reason to use recording then the eidetic memory folk would have no need for it. So what possible use could they have for conference call recording? The simplest reason is that everyone with a photographic memory knows that the majority of the human race doesn't share their perfect recall gift.

We can only imagine how many times one of them has had that annoying conversation where they have to convince someone with a fuzzy recall of actual events or conversations about what really transpired. So while a conference call recording will help most people know what was said, it will also help eidetic memory people help their people know what was said.

That's not the only reason they and the rest of the world would want to use recording. Getting away from the basic reason of sheer remembering, recordings can also be used to multi-task. While being recorded in a conference call, you could make sure to summarize at the end and specify task items for teams and individuals in your company. You can have your meeting be accessed for playback, or simply crop it down to the summary and upload it. Then you shoot an email to all involved letting them know that there is a recording available for call-in playback. They all call in individually, listen to your recording, know exactly what they are supposed to do, and you get on with your day.

Think of all the meetings, emails, conversations, questions, and misunderstandings you can avoid just by putting your exact words in a conference call recording. It's like a bit of eidetic memory for us all.

{Image credit: (CC) Larry D. Moore}

Dec
08
2010
Preventing Virtual Failure George Page

Teams, teamwork, and effective communication have been foundations for success in business, and it’s no different in this new digital age. Virtual teams have the same challenges as those working together in the same space, however, there are certain aspects we should emphasize more in virtual teams to ensure we reach our goals.

There are three things that need extra care in virtual teams: leadership, clear goals, and engagement.

Strong leadership is more important when a team is spread around the globe than when everyone is in the same office. Leadership tools such as setting an example, walking the halls, and mere presence are absent from a virtual team atmosphere. Instead, a leader needs to have solid interpersonal skills, communicate effectively, keep conference calls and other team events on task, and seize every chance for motivation. Other tools a leader can use is honest, detailed feedback, and team-building exercises.

Not just goals, but clear and obtainable goals are a must for a virtual team to be successful. If team members are only expected to “see what happens”, enthusiasm and motivation go out the window. We need to have obtainable goals for the team and--perhaps more importantly--individual team members. This gives them something to work for, with built in accountability to the leader and the the rest of the team, as well as a morale boost whenever a goal is checked of the list.

Engaging team members is more than just making sure if they’re working or not. It’s keeping them motivated, interested, and on task. The basics are including them in the plan, changes in the plan, and sharing feedback on their work and the team as a whole. In every team conference call, it’s a good idea to bring everyone into the conversation, even if it’s just small talk before the actual meeting. We can also do team-building games, hear stories about where each person is working from, or simply let each person make the “big announcement” regarding their own progress.

How is your virtual team doing? Tell us about its leadership, goals, and how you keep them engaged.

Nov
30
2010
What’s Good About Bad Meetings? George Page

A meeting can educate, allow collaboration, and build cohesiveness. For more benefits, check out Part One: What’s Good About Meetings? There are even more ways a meeting can be detrimental rather than helpful, but can a bad meeting be a good thing? And as the Harvard Business Review also asks, can a good meeting be bad?

If the purpose of a meeting was simply to have a meeting, then “we had a great meeting” would always be a good thing. But what is the point to have a great meeting? Shouldn’t we rather have a bad meeting with good results? After all, what we desire is the collaboration, choosing the best ideas, and the swaying of opinions that a meeting can produce. And that can’t happen if everything is nice and good.

In a meeting atmosphere, participants need to be able to vocalize their thoughts, share ideas, agree and disagree... you know, participate. The very best course, thought, or idea is not the first uttered, or the last, or even the most popular. The best comes from the culling of all other candidates, and can be a painful process. If everyone simply agrees with everyone else--or just the boss--then the true potential of a meeting is wasted.

But don’t judge a meeting by the state of mind it creates. Conflict and disagreement can create the best crucible. The length of a meeting doesn’t matter, only what progress was made, (and how much).

It’s okay if a meeting creates more work, as most good things don’t come easy. And if a meeting creates more meetings, it just means the subject is more complex than originally believed. We will always have a place for meetings in business. Remember though, a meeting is merely transportation, and not the destination.

Nov
29
2010
What's Good About Meetings George Page

As soon as two cavemen decided to sell round-rocks together, the first business meeting was born. Since then, meetings have transformed in many ways, such as in protocol, etiquette, time, place, medium, and so on. What hasn’t changed is the need for meetings, and as long as there is business, there will be meetings.

So what’s good about meetings? What purpose do they have? Why risk all the bad meetings--that we’ve all experienced--and waste all that time? The Harvard Business Review makes this defense for meetings:

The Social Aspect - For most individuals, working with others is a necessity. Social interaction is decreasing with the rise of remote workspaces and home offices, but even an office building can be a lonely place, especially in larger corporations. Meetings, quick chats, conference calls, etc. do away with the solitary aspect of business, prevent the stagnation of ideas, and increase the communication necessary to achieving goals.

Everyone in the Loop - More and more there is a decentralization to the business structure. There’s also more specialization, delegation, and delocalization. All this adds up to many people doing many different things from a myriad of places, all towards one common goal. Without meetings, it simply wouldn’t be possible. We need to spread valuable info on progress, changing needs and directions, as well as allow the input and contributions of everyone involved.

Status Symbols - As much as we might deny it, being invited to a meeting is much like being anointed. Inclusion means you are worthy of being informed, or of contributing. There is a danger of meeting abuse inherent as a status symbol though. We should never have a meeting because it’s a Monday, or to socialize, or simply because we can. Not only is it a waste of time, but can destroy morale.

Stay tuned for part two: What’s Good About Bad Meetings

Nov
08
2010
Using the ICEPACk George Page

Until today, I had never heard of ICEPAC, but this acronym stands for the steps of creating a great presentation. Whether you have weeks to craft, or get handed the project last minute, this acronym--and the other tips in the article--break down a presentation into easy-made parts.

ICEPAC

Interest - If no one cares about a subject, then why bother with a web conference? If they’re supposed to care, then it’s your job to make them care. Think about how your message will affect your participants daily lives and business, and emphasize the more interesting points.

Comprehension - There’s such a thing as too much detail, especially if your participants will get information overload. Keep data to bite sized chunks, avoid jargon, and cater to their--not your--expertise.

Emphasis - The main message is the whole point of your presentation, so emphasize it. Put key information on its own slide. Pause after saying a main point, or even precede it with, “This is important.”

Participation - Getting your participants involved creates more investment on their part. Utilize Q&A often, or ask impromptu, “soft ball” questions. Use the Socratic Method to draw people out, and praise highly when it works.

Accomplishment - For people to be more open to ideas, they have to like the ideas. And the best way of getting them to like ideas is for them to be a part of their creation. With good participation, you’re halfway there, but the web conference as a whole should be satisfying with something completed, decided on, or improved.

Confirmation - This is more than follow-up after the conference, it includes during as well. Q&A throughout is good to make sure you’re on track. And it never hurts to get participants to repeat their assignments so you know they understand.

Try ICEPAC when you create your next presentation and let us know how it worked for you.

Nov
02
2010
Right or Wrong George Page

Sayings and turns of phrase used incorrectly can make you look bad.

People treat us by how we dress and generally present ourselves. On a conference call, when they can’t see us, they judge us by how we speak and what we say. With that in mind, we should look at some common words and phrases in everyday use and make sure we’re saying what we want our participants to hear.

First are words that are similar, but mean different things in different contexts. A common one of these is saying “further”--as in “further than I can run”--instead of “farther than thirty miles”. The difference is that farther goes with actual, measurable distance.

Along those lines, when you mean to say something is less than a specific number, you say “fewer than ten”. Alternatively, you would say, “You have less than me.”

A sneaky one is between “bring” and “take”, and it all depends on what direction the thing is going. If you are going to a party, you are taking the wine. The hostess of that same party can say that you are bringing that wine to her.

My favorite is the subtle “infer” and “imply”. If someone suggestively says something, they are implying. If we draw a conclusion from their statements, we are inferring.

What about phrases that we use almost without thinking? For example, some people say that they need to “hone in on a solution” when they actually mean to say, “home in”.

Or when they say that something is “different than” something else, it’s more correct to say it’s “different from”.

Less is more in so many things, and the same goes for speaking. One such way is to drop the “of” when combined with “outside”. It’s not that the dogs are “outside of the house”, they are simply “outside the house”.

I hope these speaking and usage tips will “raise the question”--not “beg the question”--of your verbal habits, and help you vocally put your best foot forward.

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