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Take another look at the list of different forms of communication at the beginning of this chapter. While listening is at the very top of the list in importance, speaking and making presentations are next on the list. Since we assume you already know how to speak, we’re going to focus on the art of making effective presentations.
You’ve no doubt experienced the thrill of seeing talented speakers doing their thing. When speakers are on, they have you in the palm of their hand, bringing you into their vision and transporting you to another place. And, while a talented speaker makes presentations seem effortless, every great speaker knows that the key to giving a great presentation is to be very well prepared. Here are some tips for getting ready for your own presentations.
• Understand exactly what it is you want to accomplish. Why are you giving the presentation in the first place? What do you hope to accomplish during the presentation? What do you hope attendees will do after your presentation? Who will be in the audience, and what
BUILDING HIGH-PERFORMANCE ORGANIZATIONS
will they be hoping to gain from your presentation? Determine your goals for the presentation and the information your listeners will need to receive for you to achieve your goals.
• Prepare your outline. If you want to know where you’re going, the best way to get there is with a map. An outline is the map that will guide you through your presentation, ensuring that you hit each of the major points that you want to communicate to your audience and the supporting data for each point. It’s also a good idea to fill in subpoints under each of your major points, which further elaborate the information you want to convey. Do not write a speech. Reading from a written script is guaranteed to make you look stilted and dry while putting your audience to sleep. An outline provides you with the thought prompts you’ll need during your presentation, allowing you to fill in the blanks yourself—making for a much more interesting presentation.
• Write your introduction and conclusion. Every presentation needs a beginning (introduction) and an end (conclusion). Your introduction should do three things: (1) Explain to your audience what they’re going to gain from your presentation, (2) explain to your audience why the presentation is important to them, and (3) get your audience’s attention. Similarly, your conclusion should also do three things: (1) Summarize your key points, (2) refer your listeners back to the introduction, and (3) inspire your audience to action. The next time you have the opportunity to experience a really good presentation, see how the speaker uses these techniques to build compelling introductions and conclusions.
• Develop clear transitions. Write out the transition statements that connect key points of your speech to be sure they clearly link and build on your arguments. Without clear transitions, a speaker can inadvertently leave the audience scratching their heads as the speaker takes off in a new direction in the presentation.
• Practice, practice, practice. The old saying really is true: Practice makes perfect. If the presentation you’re making is an informal
The Management Bible
©Ask Bob and Peter: I manage a staff of about 24 at a German bank. Two of my analysts are Hispanic, sit next to each other, and often start speaking Spanish to each other loudly and joking around in Spanish. This makes those around them a bit uncomfortable because they do not speak the language and find it to be rude. I am Puerto Rican, so I have no problem with talking to them about this issue but would like to solicit your advice on the best way to do this, especially since two of my other analysts are German employees slotted to work for me for one year, who happen to communicate with each other in German all the time. How can I seem fair if it is permissible to me for my two German-speaking analysts to converse in German? I find it permissible because German is their primary language and because they communicate to my Frankfurt Branch in German and the bank is a German Bank. Your advice would be most appreciated.
From the information you've given us, it would appear that your organization has no rules requiring that employees speak only English in the workplace. And you're right, it really wouldn't be fair to tell the two Spanish-speaking employees that they can't speak to each other in their native tongue at the same time you allow the two German-speaking employees to do so—regardless of who owns the bank. Your consideration should be whether (1) the performance of your Spanish-speaking employees is being impacted by this practice and (2) the performance of other employees is being impacted by the practice. We suspect that there is a positive impact in the first case and perhaps a small negative impact in the second. Regardless of what language your employees speak, if their behavior is disruptive to other employees (speaking loudly and constant joking), you should counsel them to tone it down. We would advise against an outright prohibition of speaking Spanish at work. You not only negatively impact the morale of the two Spanish-speaking employees but also open yourself up to a claim of discrimination if you don't also ban the speaking of German and other languages besides English at work.