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8 Ways to Stop Presenting and Start Connecting

8 Ways to Stop Presenting and Start Connecting

If you are a professional presenting in business today, it’s likely that you will focus on delivering facts, knowledge, insights, and information. That sounds perfectly reasonable, of course; after all, isn’t that the point of business and all we need to present to succeed?

Ordinarily that would be fine, but the world we live in today is extraordinary, so it’s not enough. We have all spent the last 20 years living in the information age where it’s never been easy to get the facts, knowledge, insights, and information for ourselves. As the relentless drive to share information continues, we are entering a whole new age.

I call it the connectivity age.

Every week, I speak with professionals who tell me that they are overwhelmed with information. That information is coming from endless meetings, presentations, and emails which absorb so much of their time that they can’t do what they are paid to do: work. As bad as that may sound, what is far worse is the fact that many end each day feeling numb. They used to feel stressed, frustrated, and tired, but now they leave worked just dazed.

When it comes to presenting and communicating with each other in meetings, professionals in businesses all over the world are crying out for a revolution.

Yes, they want the information.

Yes, they want the facts.

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Yes, they want knowledge.

Yes, they want insights.

That will never change, but the time has come when they want all of that wrapped up in something very few presenters are currently offering.

They want you to help them to feel something. They want to connect with you on a human, emotional, and personal level.

Dumping data on colleagues and clients has become the organisational plague of the 21st Century, and it has to stop now.

If you want to play your part in leading the revolution, then the process begins by focusing on connecting instead of presenting.

The journey begins here.

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1. Start with the end in mind

Whether you are presenting a quarterly update in your management meeting, giving a team briefing, or making a sales pitch, the very first question you need to ask and answer is, “What do I want my audience to feel?”

2. Lighten up

Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be deadly serious all the time. Lose the “corporate spokesperson” and lighten up a little. No one likes a “slick” presenter who is so polished they have memorized and acted out every word. Take your message seriously, but focus on relaxing too by using a little humor and crafting a conversation instead of a lecture.

3. Change the way you look at things

I once heard one of my favourite speakers, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, say, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I believe that when many professionals are presenting, they often see:

  • Their audience as predators and themselves as prey
  • Fellow employees from the marketing, finance, IT department, etc.
  • The boss and senior management
  • Clients

The best way to connect with your audience is to see beyond their roles and positions and see them as:

  • Someone’s son or daughter
  • Someone’s brother or sister
  • A mother or father
  • Someone with hopes and dreams
  • Someone with fears and anxieties
  • Someone who wants you to help them
  • Someone you care about and want to help

4. Imagine this

Before you open your mouth to speak, take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and imagine every single person in the audience wearing a big bright neon badge.

The badge holds the letters PPPMMFS.

Those letters stand for: Please, Please, Please Make Me Feel Something.

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5. Put yourself in their shoes

Empathy is the key to connecting with your audience emotionally as well as intellectually. The route to making that connection is through stepping in their shoes for a while.

Spend some time thinking about:

  • What it could be like to be in their roles
  • The challenges, pressures, and difficulties they face
  • What they worry about the most
  • What working in an industry and business like theirs must feel like
  • What they are desperate for to make their lives easier or better
  • If they could ask you for one huge favour what would it be

6. Give them the gold

Instead of trying to show your audience how clever you are, how much you know, and how hard you’ve worked, just give them the gold.

In other words, don’t make them dig through the data and bullet points to find the little nuggets of gold that will make a real difference to them. Do the digging for them and just give them the valuable nuggets they came for.

7. Make it personal

There is nothing worse than a generic presentation which basically offers a plethora of information that could apply to anyone or any business. Make sure that everything you say and every slide you choose to show is personal, relevant, and of value to your audience. The sanity check is asking the question, “So what?”

Whatever you choose to share with your audience, keep in mind that if anyone stops you to ask “Thank you, but so what? Why should I care about that?” you have a good answer.

8. Lose the “head stuff”

When it’s not the content, the message, or the purpose of the presentation which numbs the audience, it’s the speaker’s very own “head stuff.”

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Here is what I mean by “head stuff”:

  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?
  • I’m so nervous and such a terrible speaker.
  • I feel like a fraud because I’m sure they know more than I do.
  • What if I freeze?
  • My entire reputation depends on this.

If all the while you are presenting to your audience with some of these thoughts running through your head, you are doing both yourself and your audience a huge disservice.

Do whatever it takes to stop the noise by using breathing techniques, meditating, visualizing, or challenging these thoughts.

The more you focus on yourself, the more you are telling your audience that your presentation is all about you rather than them.

Lose the “head stuff” and make it all about your audience.

The future of high-impact presenting

We’ve had “death by bullet point,” we’ve had the monotone voice and the “data dumps,” and some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world are still seeing them all every week.

The future of high-impact presenting entails making an emotional connection. Those who continue to simply present information without helping their audience to feel something will be left behind.

Following these 8 tips will go a long way to helping you to make your audience feel something.

Featured photo credit: Elen33 | Dreamstime.com via dreamstime.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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