Career Development All-in-One For Dummies book cover

Career Development All-in-One For Dummies

By: The Experts at Dummies Published: 04-17-2017

Take control of your career today

Want to get ahead in the workplace? Learn new skills and increase your visibility as a leader in your company with the help of this practical, hands-on guide to professional development. You'll find new techniques for being a better leader, tips for writing better emails, rules for running more effective meetings, and much more. Plus, you'll discover how to give presentations that will keep your audience engaged and learn to be a more mindful person.

Combined from seven of the best For Dummies books on career development topics, Career Development All-in-One For Dummies is your one-stop guide to taking control of your career and improving your professional life. Perfect on its own or as part of a formal development program, it gives you everything you need to advance your career.

  • Become a better leader
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Write effective business communications
  • Manage projects more effectively

Success is an individual responsibility—so put your professional future in your own hands with this guide!

Articles From Career Development All-in-One For Dummies

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33 results
33 results
Recognizing When to Close a Negotiation

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

The when of closing a negotiation is easy: early and often. Some people don’t seem to want or need to close the deal. They are like cows chewing their cud. They just go on and on enjoying the process, burning up time, and never bringing discussions to a close. And then again, like cows, they will put something away and bring it back up later and chew on it some more. Disgusting. Fortunately, you know that closing is a separate skill, and you keep it in mind at every phase of the negotiating process. Keep the closing in mind as you prepare for your negotiation, as you listen to the other side, and every time you speak. A little piece of your mind should always focus on the closing — on bringing the negotiation to a mutually acceptable solution. You aren’t likely to miss an opportunity to close when you view closing as a separate aspect of the negotiation rather than just the lucky result of a negotiation. The proper moment to make your first effort at closing a deal is when you first sit down. Your mantra for closing: early and often. A recent study of salespeople revealed that a very small percentage of sales close after the first effort. Most sales close after at least three efforts to get the order. Try to close any negotiation as early as possible and keep trying until you prevail. If you have trouble closing deals, intentionally try to close your next negotiation earlier than you think is possible. You find that no harm is done and that the other side becomes sensitized to the need to conclude matters. Make a game of it. Chart your efforts to close. Your rate of successful closings rises as you become more and more aware of closing as a separate skill to bring out early and often. Many people find it is easier to close a deal if they set a deadline to do so. Negotiations tend to fall into place at the last minute. Having a deadline is like having a referee at the bargaining table. Remember, every deal has time constraints, so establishing a deadline can help the negotiation come to a smooth end. The phony deadline is a classic negotiating tool used to hurry one side into a quick close. If you suspect a phony deadline, don’t sit back and accept it. Instead, test it. Get an explanation.

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How to Deal with Unacceptable Responses in a Negotiation

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

There are some techniques people use to avoid providing accurate answers during a negotiation. Do not allow these ploys. When you’re alert to these substitutes for honest information, you can demand the real McCoy. Don’t tolerate the dodge Politicians, as a group, seem specially trained to provide anything but an answer when asked a question. It’s almost as though there is some secret college for Congress members where they go to learn about the artful dodge. Just tune into the Sunday morning shows that feature our elected representatives. For example, if someone asks about the state of public education, the representative may launch into a dissertation about family values. It’s odd how many interviewers let elected officials get away with avoiding questions Sunday after Sunday. You don’t have to do that. Don’t accept the dodge when you ask a question. Recognize this tactic for what it is and repeat the question, this time insisting on a real answer or an exact time when you can expect an answer. When people say that they have to look into something and get back to you, about the only thing you can do (without making a rather obvious and frontal assault on their honesty) is wait. However, you can nail them down to a specific date and time that they will “get back to you.” If the question is important enough for the other side to delay (or not answer at all), the issue is important enough for you to press forward. Asking, “When can I expect an answer from you?” is a direct way of obtaining that information. Be sure to make a note of the reply. Don’t accept an assertion for the answer A person who doesn’t want to answer your question may try instead to emphatically state something close to what you’re looking for. This technique is common when you’re asking for a commitment that the other party doesn’t want to make. Sometimes, an assertion about the past is substituted for an answer about the future. For example, you ask whether a company plans to spend $50,000 on advertising in the next year. You receive an emphatic statement that the company has spent $50,000 each year for the past four years, that sales are rising, and that any company would be a fool to cut back now. Don’t settle for such assertions — push for an answer. Say something like “Does that mean that your company has made a final commitment to spend $50,000 for advertising this year?” Because assertions are sometimes delivered with a great deal of energy or passion, you may feel awkward insisting on the answer to your question. Not persisting with the inquiry can be fatal to your interests. Don’t allow too many pronouns Beware the deadly pronoun: he, she, they, and the power-gilded we. Pronouns can send you into a quagmire of misunderstanding. During a negotiation, force your counterpart to use specific nouns and proper names. This preventive measure avoids a great deal of miscommunication. With pronouns, you must guess which “they” or which “we” the speaker is talking about. Don’t guess. Just throw up your hands and say, with humor, “Too many pronouns.” Most people won’t begrudge your taking the time to clarify this issue. More often than not, the request is greeted with a chuckle. The potential for confusion is obvious, and everyone appreciates the effort to maintain clarity.

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The Art of Coaxing Out Information in a Negotiation

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

Effective listening requires probing, especially in a negotiation. No one says everything you want to hear in the exact order, depth, and detail that you prefer. You have to ask. No phrase describes the job of questioning better than tickle it out. Questions are a way of coaxing out information that you want or need. In a trial, the question-and-answer format rules the proceedings. Attorneys and the judge can talk to each other in declarative sentences, but all the testimony is presented in the somewhat artificial format of question-and-answer. In court, the purpose of every question should be to obtain specific information. If the question isn’t answered directly, it needs to be asked in another way. The rules in the courtroom are specific; as a matter of etiquette, you should apply similar rules in a business meeting. For example, courtesy prohibits you from barraging the other side with rapid-fire questions; court rules prevent the same thing. Developing the ability to ask good questions is a lifelong effort. If you have the opportunity to observe a trial, notice that the primary difference between the experienced attorney and the less-experienced attorney is the ability of the former to ask the right question at the right time. Almost without fail, the key question is not a bombastic, confrontational inquiry, but a simple, easy-to-understand question designed to extract specific information. An excellent example of tickling it out occurred in the O. J. Simpson murder trial during the questioning of police officer Mark Fuhrman. Lengthy, soft-spoken questions led up to the simple query, “In the last ten years, have you used the ‘n’ word?” “No,” the officer replied. “Are you sure?” the attorney asked. “Yes, sir,” Mark Fuhrman responded. There were no fireworks, no victory dances at that point, but the quiet exchange permanently altered the trial. Because Fuhrman’s statement wasn’t true, the defense was able to call witness after witness to impeach his testimony. Eventually, the truth about Fuhrman’s behavior smashed against that statement so explosively that every other piece of evidence was damaged. Fuhrman and all his co-workers were hurt by those brief words so gently tickled out during questioning. Remember Columbo? The famous detective, performed so consistently by Peter Falk, perfectly demonstrates the key skill of a good negotiator: asking really good questions. You will find Columbo using every type of question and listening to the answer. No single source better demonstrates how to ask questions. You can learn much more from Columbo. Study the man. Let him be your mentor as he entertains you. He also has incredible integrity. He sets his goal and never wavers. His steely determination brings victory in the toughest of circumstances. Battling the jargon in a negotiation Don’t be shy or embarrassed about asking someone to clarify a statement. Many people use jargon or shorthand when they talk, so you can’t always be sure of what they mean. However, the situation is slightly more difficult when you're both in the same industry. You may feel embarrassed to ask for the meaning under that circumstance, because you think that you should know. You can handle this situation by saying, “Just to be sure that we're using our shorthand in the same way, tell me exactly how you define XYZ.” When the other person gives you his or her definition, use it. Here are three useful responses when the other party defines a term for you: “That’s great! We use that phrase the same way.” “Glad I asked; we use that phrase a little differently, but we can go with your definition.” “Thanks, I just learned something new.” If you really think the other person is miles off the target and some real damage may be done if you use the word his or her way instead of your way, say: “We should define that term in the written agreement so others won’t get confused. You and I know what we are talking about, but we want to be sure that everyone else does, too.” Don’t get into a battle over definitions. There’s another situation in which you may run into jargon. Some people, particularly doctors, lawyers, and accountants, use jargon to impress others with their knowledge, power, or position. As often as not, they use this device on their own clients. Use the preceding techniques to get clear on the conversation. If the problem is chronic, look for another professional to serve your needs. Clarifying relativity in a negotiation Requiring others to define relative words is just as important as asking them to explain specific pieces of jargon. Relative words are nonspecific, descriptive words that only have meaning in relation to something else. Here are some examples of relative words that can create a great deal of confusion: Cheap High quality Large Many Soon Substantial Don’t be shy about asking for clarification when someone lays one of these words on you. If the person insists on using generalities, as some people do, press for a range. If you still don’t get a specific answer, supply two or three ranges and force the person to choose one. Let’s say your new customer says, “We’re thinking of placing a big order with you.” That’s good news if you and your new customer both use the words “big order” the same way. But you need to ask for specifics. If your customer doesn’t answer with a number, you can say, “Do you mean more like ten, or maybe about a hundred, or would it be closer to a thousand?” Whatever the answer is, just say “thank you.” Don’t belabor the point that you wouldn’t call that a “big order.” You should make a note of the information, as well. These situations offer a great opportunity to find out more about the company that you’re dealing with. It’s a good time to ask questions about the normal size of the orders from this company, why it’s changing now, and other pieces of information that will help you service this client much better.

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How to Set the Opening Offer in a Negotiation

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

The opening offer is the first specific statement of what you’re looking for in a negotiation. After you've set your goals for the negotiation, you can consider the opening offer. For example, in a job interview, the opening offer is the salary you’re seeking. Don’t look for any hard-and-fast rules or magic formulas. To determine your opening offer, you should draw heavily on the goals and limits you set and the information you've gathered while preparing for the negotiation. Your opening offer should be higher than the goals you've set for yourself. But it shouldn’t be so outrageously high as to be off-putting to the other side or make you look foolish or inexperienced. Whether the amount you state in your opening offer is higher or lower than the amount of your goal depends on whether you’re the buyer or the seller (you determine how much higher or lower through good preparation): If you’re the seller, your opening offer should never be lower than the goal you set. If you’re the buyer, the opening offer should never be higher than the goal you set. People are quite anxious about the opening offer. They’re fearful that they will mess up the entire negotiation by blurting out a demand that is too modest or too ambitious. State your opening offer positively and precisely. You want the ability to measure your achievement. Use your anxiety level as a measure of how well prepared you are. Part of being well prepared is knowing relative values. If you know the value of what you’re offering, the opening offer is easy to deduce. You just decide how much negotiating room you want to leave yourself. Have your opening offer in mind even if you don’t plan to state it openly. This approach speeds your reaction time to whatever offer the other side makes.

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How to Prepare Yourself for Negotiation

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

You are the most important single element in this negotiation. Even if you are the most junior person in the room, your performance at the negotiation is more important to you and your future than any agenda or seating arrangement. Do not shortchange yourself. Keep your confidence up. This just may be the moment that helps you climb the executive ladder. Take a moment to check on yourself, leaving other arrangements for later. This concern for self is an important investment that pays off handsomely. This is your moment to shine (even if you must shine in silence). A is for alert To negotiate at your best, you must be well rested and alert. If the negotiation is early in the morning, make sure you eat breakfast. If you feel stressed, do an early-morning workout or meditate. A well-rested and stress-free mind is an alert mind. And when you are alert Your concentration and ability to listen improve. You’re more likely to be quick-witted and able to respond to questions or attacks. You won’t rush to tie things up so you can get home or get to bed. Your performance at any negotiation is aided by a good night’s sleep. Sometimes getting that sleep is easier said than done. If you find yourself thinking about a negotiation just when you want to go to sleep, try this trick: Pull out a pad and jot down your thoughts. Keep going until you've cleaned out your mind. More often than not, this simple exercise enables you to doze off and secure some much-needed sleep. If you still can’t get to sleep after writing down your thoughts, at least you have a crib sheet to help your sleep-deprived mind get through the negotiating session. Dressing for success During the 1980s, two books had considerable effect on what people wore to get power and respect. These books, geared toward the professional, have a much wider application if you read between the lines. The first book, Dress for Success (P.H. Wyden) by John T. Molloy, chauvinistically addressed only men. The book’s popularity led to a sequel, The Woman’s Dress for Success Book (Warner Books). Both are valuable, if dated, aids for young executives. The theory of both books is to look like the boss. The startling response to Molloy’s books was that, all through the 1980s, droves of young female professionals began wearing dark blue suits, white silk blouses, and big red bows at the neck. Perhaps they were helping themselves up the ladder of success, but the necessity (or perceived necessity) for ambitious young women to transform their appearance to break into the good old boys’ club is distressing. Today, dress styles in the workplace vary widely depending on the type of business. In the entertainment industry, for instance, dress styles are more casual. Visit any animation studio and you will see folks dressed as if they were attending an afternoon barbeque. Clothing styles for the workplace continue to evolve. Some companies still require business attire; others don’t. The point is to dress for the occasion. If you’re attending an important meeting, you want to look your best to be taken seriously and to be respected. A writer came into Jill's office to pitch a story idea. He wore a T-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops. Jill's immediate impression was one of laziness. She assumed that his pitch would be as jumbled as his attire — and she was right. The pitch wasn’t well thought out. It was carefree and meandering. This is not the impression you want to give the next time you approach the negotiation table. Don’t dress to distract. You are in a negotiation. You want people to listen, and you need their eyes as well as their ears. Here are a few things to keep in mind: Women, you pull the eye away from your face if you wear dangling earrings or expose cleavage. Men, you improve no business environment anywhere with gold chains or a sport shirt open to reveal that remarkable chest. If a particular type of outfit works for you on vacation or at a party, more power to you. But don’t confuse those casual social environments (which may include a bit of negotiating in the course of an evening) with the negotiating environment of the business world. Of course, every rule has an exception. See the film Erin Brockovich for such an example. In the film, Erin, played by Julia Roberts, is hired as a secretary at a small law firm. She dresses in short skirts, revealing blouses, and stiletto heels. Her co-workers don’t take her seriously. Little do they know Erin is extremely driven and smart. Her wardrobe becomes second nature as the film progresses. She begins to investigate a suspicious real estate case involving Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which leads her to become the point person in one of the biggest class action lawsuits in American history against a multibillion dollar corporation. All this despite her risqué wardrobe. Mirror your environment as you prepare yourself for your first negotiating session. For example, don’t wear a three-piece suit to a place where all the employees, including the executives, wear jeans and polo shirts to work. Respectfully absorb that which is around you. Become a part of the surroundings. Some negotiators take this tip beyond the way they dress. For instance, some negotiators even adapt to the pace of the speech. In New York, where people tend to talk fast, good negotiators speed up their pace a bit; in the South, where people tend to talk slowly, good negotiators slow it down a few notches. Above all, know that good manners are different from place to place. Walking through the door No matter how sleep-deprived, harried, or down-in-the-dumps you may be, always enter the negotiating room with assertiveness. Establish confidence and control from the opening moment. That moment sets a tone for the entire meeting. This fact is true even if you are not officially in charge of the meeting. These guidelines can vault the most junior person at a meeting to MVP status almost immediately. Never forget the pleasantries. If the last negotiating session ended on a bad note, clear that away first. Otherwise, you run the risk that unrelated matters may ignite the controversy all over again. If you can resolve the situation up front, you can move forward unfettered. Ignoring such a situation just leaves the ill-will hovering over the negotiating table. The bad feelings creep into and influence every conversation. The negativity taints all the proceedings until it has been cleared away. As your hand is on the door of the negotiating room or as you dial the phone number of your counterpart, put on your attitude. Take a beat and lift yourself up to the occasion. Grandmother was right — “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Toss your head back — literally. Smile, inside and out. Focus on your immediate purposes. Have your right hand free to shake hands with whoever is there. If the meeting requires you to wear one of those awful name badges, be sure to write your name in large letters and place the badge high on your right side so people can easily read it. Improving your attitude just before the session begins can be one of the most valuable moments you spend in a negotiation. Here are some tips in case you're in charge of the meeting: Make sure that all participants are present and ready to listen. If someone is missing, you face the first dilemma of a meeting leader: to start or not to start the meeting. Follow your gut and the culture in which you're operating. If you are always prompt and have a roomful of folks whose time is valuable (whose isn’t?), proceed and educate the laggard later. If the missing person is the boss, well, again, the culture is important. Some bosses would be annoyed that you held up the meeting for them. State your purpose for having the meeting. This is like the opening paragraph of a term paper. If there is not a written agenda, outline the important points you will discuss. Knowing what is going to happen helps keep everyone focused. If there is a written agenda, be sure everyone has one and take a moment to review it. Put time restraints on each agenda item. Doing so keeps you from lingering on a subject longer than expected and not giving enough time to others. Make a clear request for agreement on the agenda and the procedure. Gauge how the other party feels about your agenda. This is an important step on the road to closing a deal and is your chance to start things off with something on which everyone is in agreement. Acknowledge the participants’ attitudes and feelings as they relate to your purpose. Your objective is to close the deal. To do this, you need to establish empathy from the beginning of the meeting. Begin according to the agenda. If you must deviate from your plan at the beginning of the meeting, you'll have a hard time gaining control later. You’ve opened the meeting and presented your agenda. You’ve taken the first step into the negotiation process. Breathe. Leaving enough time Deciding how much time to allocate for a negotiation session or for the entire negotiation is always a tricky matter because you aren’t in control of the other side. If you want to have the negotiation over by a certain time, say so right up front. If a good reason exists for your desire, state that also. Leaving more time than you actually need for a negotiating session is always better than allocating too little time. If you've overestimated the time, you can always use the extra time for something else.

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Tips for Handling All Sorts of Negotiations

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

You can apply the six basic skills to every negotiation, no matter what. But some of the negotiations you’ll encounter may seem beyond the scope of these skills. Let’s face it, they aren’t. You simply have to remain focused on the six skills. Negotiating is like tennis. You have to serve the ball whether you're playing a rank amateur or in the finals at Wimbledon. Like the backhand and forehand shots in tennis, your negotiating skills stay with you no matter what court you're on or who your opponent is. Negotiations can become complex for any number of reasons, and male-female negotiations often have an element of complexity. And as the world seems to grow smaller and move faster, you’re likely to face international negotiations and negotiations that take place over the telephone and Internet. When negotiations get complicated In simple negotiations, you can apply the six basic skills without too much trouble. But what happens when a negotiation gets complicated? Complex negotiations happen when the negotiation becomes larger in scope, and the amount of work and organization requires more than two people (one on each side of the negotiating table) can handle alone. When the negotiation shifts from a 2-person affair to a 20-person affair, the negotiation is complicated. On a personal level, a negotiation becomes complicated when you invest all your emotion and effort into getting the deal closed. For example, a salary negotiation, although simple in theory, carries a lot of emotional weight behind it. No matter the size and factors involved in the negotiation, the six basic skills serve as your core to making the negotiation a success. International negotiations International negotiation (or cross-cultural negotiation) is one of many specialized areas in the world of negotiating. The six basic skills are just as critical, if not more critical, in international negotiations as they are when you’re negotiating on home turf. International deals require more preparation because you have to tailor your negotiating approach to the customs of the country you’re negotiating in. Preparing for cross-cultural negotiating requires more than just understanding how foreigners close a deal. You have to know the differences in communication, their attitude toward conflict, how they complete tasks, their decision-making processes, and how they disclose information. Even the body language in other countries is different from what we’re accustomed to in the United States. Eye contact, personal space, and touch vary among countries. Research the country’s traditions before walking into a negotiating room on foreign soil. Watch foreign language films, read travel guides, and learn key phrases in your counterpart’s language during the preparation process. Bridge the communication gap as much as possible. When you start behaving like a native, you’ll earn the respect and confidence of your foreign counterpart. Negotiations between men and women Communication between the sexes is much different now than it was during our grandparents’ time. For one, women are now leaders in large businesses and politics, two worlds once dominated solely by men. As we begin the twenty-first century, the communication gap between men and women has slowly narrowed but fundamental differences still separate the two sexes. Negotiation on the phone and via the Internet We’re riding on the information superhighway and never looking back. The landscape of communication has changed dramatically, thanks to the telephone and the Internet. These forms of telecommunication have made communication faster and sometimes simpler. More importantly, they’ve created a new mode of negotiating. You can now negotiate from the comfort of your own home, in a car while driving to your office, or from a different part of the world. Negotiating via the telephone and Internet requires the same preparation and etiquette as a face-to-face negotiation. The only difference is that the negotiation happens at the lift of a headset or the push of a button. Although simpler, using the telephone or Internet to negotiate is not as good as negotiating in person. You miss the human interaction, the body language, and the gestures that are so important in gauging others when negotiating in a room.

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Give a Great Presentation by Affecting Your Audience Right to the End

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

Your conclusion can be soft-spoken or electric, depending on both your personality and your audience, but every type of conclusion should follow these guidelines to be effective. Conclude, don’t include If you forgot minor, unimportant pieces of information, don’t add them to your conclusion as afterthoughts. A conclusion wraps up and tightly summarizes what you said and is not a forum for new information. What’s more, if you forget something important and discuss it during your conclusion, your may jeopardize your credibility and leave the audience wondering, “If it was that much of a priority, how could he not have focused on it during the presentation?” Signal that the end is near Audiences snap to when they hear the magical words that tell them it’s the beginning of the end. When a presenter says something like, “I’m going to wrap up now with my summary and final thoughts,” listeners perk up with renewed attention, which you can take advantage of. Use transition statements such as the following: “I’ll conclude with the profound quotation of the eminent business giant Catherine Wittner, who said … ” “The main points I want to leave you with before I end are … ” “As I finish up, I want to leave you with a stunning four-minute video that perfectly encapsulates and dramatically amplifies the dire importance of my message to you today … ” “I end today with three recommendations, which are … ” End it already Your conclusion should be direct and concise, yet smooth, not choppy. After you alert your group that you’re heading down the homestretch of your talk, conclude with brevity and panache. Some presenters frustrate audiences by giving the impression that things are wrapping up and then continue talking with no sign of ending soon. Some people do this multiple times to the great dismay of the audience. Be neither meek nor weak Finish in a confident, strong, and self-assured manner that conveys positivity and optimism. Never apologize or appear submissive as in the following: “I am so sorry it took this long and that we didn’t have enough handouts for all of you, but … ” “I’m embarrassed I forget to prepare details about … ” “This is a new presentation for me, and also I’m not an experienced speaker … ” “Thank you for your patience during my talk.” Instead, offer a solution, such as, “If you didn’t receive the handouts, please write your email on the list on the table by the exit and I’ll send them to you this evening.” Or “It was a delight to speak with you today about my new responsibilities.” Leave with a strong message In certain types of presentations or speeches, a thought-provoking, memorable finale embodies the epitome of the Law of Recency — like the last lyrics of a song or the final words of a play. Consider the following examples of punchy closing statements: “Our company’s debt is a disaster teetering on a precipice. We still have time to avoid economic catastrophe, but only if we act right now. Right now!” “Innovation in your corporation is absolutely critical as never before. Apply it, accelerate it, and benefit from it in ways you’ve never imagined before!” “There are three things to remember about great leadership: Take care of your people [pause], take care of your people [pause], take care of your people. And they will take care of you and your company!”

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How to Use Mild-to-Wild Creativity to Hook the Audience of Your Presentation or Speech

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

Nothing says boring like a predictable, conventional (a nice way of saying slow and dull) introduction to a presentation or speech. Ramping it up just a couple of notches with some creativity can make all the difference. And, in some cases, going from mild to wild with your imagination fires up your audience. Imaginative, unexpected approaches to starting a presentation are eagerly welcomed by an audience weary of typical talks. The audience appreciates an entertaining, yet professional and relevant, presentation that sets you far apart and above the crowd. Famous comedian and late-night television host Johnny Carson profoundly said, “People will pay more to be entertained than educated.” Do both! You may be a bit hesitant to attempt something different and untried because you risk the audience not accepting it. The fact is groups love interesting, enjoyable presentations that display meaningful creativity and captivate and rivet their attention. What are you waiting for? When it comes to being creative in your presentations, and particularly the introductions, your comfort level limits you far more than your imagination. The more you experiment in small ways, the more you feel confident and assured in your ability to successfully apply your imagination. Professional creativity that is neither silly nor lessens your credibility grabs the audience’s attention when you begin your talk. Start out with milder forms of clever ideas, test them, and then move up the creativity ladder as you become more confident and comfortable with your blossoming communication imagination. Scenario one: Opening with a video An account manager along with his chemical engineer from a specialty chemical company gives a talk to a group of manufacturing managers from an international company. They begin by just introducing themselves and immediately start showing a 30-second video of several manufacturing operations (that have successfully used their products) with these numbers superimposed over the running video: “Proven Averages: 30 Percent Savings … 25 Percent Productivity Increase … 50 Percent Return on Investment … 4 Month Payback.” When the video finishes, the account manager warmly smiles and says, “Those are real numbers that report the benefits that over 70 of our customers have experienced to date. Now we will discuss how your company can and will achieve some remarkable returns from using three of our breakthrough coatings in your manufacturing operations.” This atypical introduction immediately begins with something of obvious value to a potential customer, without a long-winded buildup, a transition, or wasted time. These two presenters raised eyebrows right away and snatched their group’s attention from a 30-second, bottom-line oriented video. Scenario two: Going dramatic The CEO of a small, innovative software company is one of the key speakers at a business conference. The person who just verbally introduced him walks to the extreme side of the stage, where the speaker has been standing unseen by the audience. He walks the speaker by his arm very slowly and carefully toward the lectern and the audience sees that the speaker is blindfolded. The speaker gropes awkwardly for the location of the microphone to adjust it toward him and the audience wonders what might happen. He begins, “A tsunami of data covers the world, doubling every 18 months. we are drowning in data, but dying of thirst for information that will help run our businesses more effectively. Unknowingly, we wear blindfolds, just like me, that prevent us from seeing the rich sea of information deep within the waves of data flooding our businesses. I’m going to show you how to remove the blindfolds you don’t even know you’re wearing, giving you the vision to see and use the invaluable, rich information that will make your organizations more productive, more efficient, more innovative — and more successful.” As he takes off the blindfold, he smiles and puts up his first slide of a person successfully reading an eye chart for 20/20 vision. Scenario three: Starting with a story The director of innovation for one highly effective government agency (yes, it is possible!) was asked to give a presentation to another large, bureaucratic agency that struggles with inefficiencies and waste, which prevent it from meeting aggressive goals set by the administration. After being introduced, she starts in a most unique and unexpected fashion by saying, “Let me tell you a story.” She recounts the compelling, captivating tale of three organizations that struggled with essentially the same types of problems that burden this agency. Like a mini-epic, the five-minute story mixes facts and statistics with the personal struggles and emotional highs and lows of the managers who ultimately overcame the obstacles and changed the operations and culture of their organizations. The presenter tells a story each person in the audience relates to and understands. She mesmerizes the group, but stops short of telling how the story ends to build anticipation and curiosity. In those brief minutes, she makes a connection with the audience, conveys her understanding of their situation, and instills hope and optimism for a solution. The story gives a valuable, teasing glimpse into how to fix their set of problems. For the next 40 minutes, she describes the plan, process, and solution she advocates. (She does tell them how the story ends — at the end of her presentation.) Scenario four: Overcoming obstacles The regional sales vice president for a leading customer relationship management (CRM) application company puts on a public seminar in a hotel and invites sales executives and sales managers from dozens of small to large companies. As attendees walk into the meeting room, they find not the expected rows of chairs and a projection screen but an obstacle course laid out on the floor. Yellow duct tape defines the course interrupted by paper building blocks, signs, plastic figurines, model buildings, and a metal bridge. A large remote-controlled car waits at the start of the obstacle course. Needless to say, this unexpected display intrigues the attendees. When everyone gathers in the room, the vice president says, “Welcome to our seminar! As sales professionals, you know how difficult it can be to navigate the accounts with which you want to do lots of business. You meet gatekeepers, people change jobs, and competitors want to gain an edge over you. Right?” People nod their heads in agreement. He continues, “This morning, we’re going to show you how to drive past your competitors, maneuver around all kinds of obstacles, get into that account, and make a difference — quickly. My assistant here will show you how to really drive that business.” The VP introduces a young man holding the remote control, and then shouts, “Go!” With that, the fellow drives the car and knocks down the paper blocks that form temporary barriers on the road, navigates over the bridge, steers around the plastic figures of people representing gatekeepers, and passes the finish line in such a quick, masterful way that those in the audience are awestruck with his expert driving. They’ve never seen anything like it. (The clever VP went to a well-known hobby shop where competitive remote-control racers hang out, and he hired a champ for the demonstration to make it look absolutely easy.) The group spontaneously erupts in applause and when the din dies down, the VP says, “Our CRM software offers seven specific solutions that will drive your sales organization revenue growth. I’ll show you how you can see increases from 15 percent to well over 45 percent within two years. Our median increase for more than 400 customers in this geographic is about 26 percent. Let’s start with the first innovative application for you, which is …”

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How to Captivate Your Audience with Your Eyes When Presenting

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

Whether in a romantic novel or a spy thriller, much has been written about the mystique of a person’s eyes and the effect they can have on people, including those in your presentation’s audience. It’s been said that the face is a picture of what lies in the mind and heart with the eyes as the interpreter. You have, of course, heard that the eyes are the mirror of the soul and the expression “They were seeing eye to eye.” These sayings reinforce the major role that eye contact plays in human relations, including speeches and business presentations. The majority of presentation trainers and coaches consider eye contact to be the most important of the nonverbal speaking skills. It is so important that without effective eye contact, you cannot reach your objectives. The numerous benefits of great eye contact include Establishing and maintaining rapport with your audience Setting a positive tone for your presentation Subtly controlling your audience, while holding their attention Reinforcing and emphasizing your key points and ideas Getting immediate feedback on people’s reaction to your talk Giving you an enhanced image of credibility, confidence, and charisma Eye contact is a personal thing. It shows that you want to connect and that you care. Do you trust someone who talks to you but doesn’t look you in the eye? Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Well, the same applies to people in your audience. If you don’t engage them with eye contact, it not only takes away the personal touch and hurts rapport, but people in your audience will form a negative impression of you — that you are nervous, feel uncomfortable with your topic, are hiding something, or are afraid of the reaction to your talk. But if you make good eye contact, your audience members sense you are enjoying your presentation, like being with them, and are confident in your topic and speaking ability. An audience mimics your behavior, so if you display enthusiasm about your topic, they will too. What’s interesting is how you can psychologically keep the interest of people — influence their reactions — by looking directly at them. Next time you give a presentation note this: As you look at people, in almost 100 percent of the cases, they look back at you. On the one hand, looking directly into someone’s eyes pressures them to look back at you. On the other hand, if you look at the walls in the room or stare at the projection screen, people may feel free to look at their smartphone or tablet or otherwise redirect their attention away from you. Even with large audiences, systematically making eye contact with different sections of the room will keep people looking back at you. Flexibility and adaptability characterize innovative presenters. While maintaining eye contact with as many people as possible, you constantly analyze and gauge how the group is reacting to your talk. The audience’s body language, whether positive (sitting on the edge of their seats, nodding in agreement, and smiling) or negative (yawning, looking at watches, fidgeting, frowning), tells you whether they’re eagerly listening, anxious to hear more, positively receptive to the information, or bored, restless, frustrated, confused, or irritated. Because you continuously look at people, you can judge whether you need to speed things up, move onto the next area in your presentation, slow down and give more explanations, examples, and details, engage people in discussions, or ask them questions to determine whether they’re bothered or are having difficulty understanding something. Use your eyes for emphasis. When you come to your main points, maintain strong eye contact with your group. To add dramatic effect, you can walk to the center of the meeting room (or stage) to get closer to your audience right before you communicate your critical point, add more voice volume, and pause while you look around the room with direct eye contact. This combination of voice and body movement adds powerful emphasis when needed. Speaking with your eyes Tarjei Vesaas, a Norwegian novelist and poet, aptly quipped, “Almost nothing need be said when you have eyes.” Obviously, eyes alone, without talking and visuals, won’t cut it for your typical business presentation, but your eyes do communicate. Here are some tips for effective eye-speak: When you begin your talk, let your eyes sweep through the audience. Look directly into the eyes of others. Don’t look over their heads or anywhere else. Maintain random eye contact around the room — don’t make it look contrived by mechanically swinging your head side-to-side and doing eye contact in a predictable, systematic way. As you speak, ask yourself, “Who haven’t I looked at yet?” Look at each person for about three to six seconds as if talking to just that individual. If you look for less time, say a second, that’s glancing, and if you look longer, people feel uncomfortable — as if they’re being singled out. Avoid the following eye-contact no-nos: Staring at your notes, the projection screen, the floor, or anywhere else except your group. Looking only at friendly, supportive people who are nodding, smiling, and otherwise giving you positive feedback; spread your eye contact around the room. Overdoing eye contact with specific people such as the senior managers, prominent and influential people, or the top decision makers. However, when you come to important parts of your presentation, look at the key people to emphasize your point and gauge their reactions. Shifting your eyes. Move your head and even your entire body to look around. Keeping eye contact with a large audience You might be asking, “How can we really do effective eye contact with an audience of 500 to 2,000 or even more?” The closer you are to someone — for example, to your immediate front or close left and right sides — the more that person can detect if you are looking directly at him. The farther away you are from someone, the less he can see if you are looking at him eye-to-eye. When you select one individual in the first row to look at, only a few people think you’re looking at them. The trick is to focus on giving individual eye contact to more of the folks in front of you. But don’t forget to look at the extremes of the room — right and left, very back, and balcony if there is one. Look at the very back of a large room and select one person to gaze at. People in a large radius (perhaps 20 to 40 feet in size) around that person feel that you’re looking at them.

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How to Move from Passive to Active Voice in Your Business Writing

Article / Updated 07-27-2017

Most people write too passively in their business writing. They use too many verbs that are forms of to be, which force sentences into convoluted shapes that are hard for readers to untangle. Worse, all those to be verbs make writing so dull that many readers don't even want to try. Active verbs say everything more directly, clearly, concisely, and colorfully. If you want to transform everything you write quickly, pay attention to verbs and build your sentences around active ones. Thinking action in your business writing Active voice and action verbs are not the same thing grammatically, but this isn't a grammar guide. For practical purposes, don't worry about the distinction. Just remember to cut back on the following word choices: Is + an -ed ending: As in, Your attention is requested. Are + an -ed ending: As in, The best toys are created by scientists. Were + an -ed ending: As in, The company executives were worried about poor writers who were failing to build good customer relations. Was + an -ed ending: As in, The ice cream was delivered by Jenny. Will be + have + an -ed ending: As in, we will be happy to have finished studying grammar. Would be + an -ed ending: As in, The CEO said a new marketing plan would be launched next year. The solution in every case is the same: Figure out who does what, and rephrase the idea accordingly: We request your attention. Scientists create the best toys. Company executives worry that bad writers fail to build good relationships. Jenny delivered the ice cream. We're happy to finish studying grammar. The CEO plans to launch a new marketing plan next year. Verbs endings with -en raise the same red flag as those ending in -ed. For example, I will be taken to Washington by an India Airways plane is better expressed as An India Airways plane will fly me to Washington. When you rid a sentence of to be verbs, you win a chance to substitute active present tense verbs for boring, passive past tense ones. Many professionals work this tactic out on their own through years of trial and error. Writing in the present tense takes a bit more thought at first but quickly becomes a habit. Use present tense everywhere you can and see your writing leap forward in one giant step. Look closely at all your sentences that contain is, are, and the other to be verbs. See whether an action verb can bring your sentences to life. Often, you can use the present tense of the same verb: Original: He is still a pest to the whole office about correct grammar. Revised: He still pesters the whole office about correct grammar. At other times, think of a more interesting verb entirely: Original: She is intending to develop a surprise party for the boss. Revised: She is hatching a surprise party for the boss. Trimming there is and there are from your business writing Big-time culprits in the passive sweepstakes are the combinations there is and there are. This problem is easy to fix — just commit never to start a sentence with either. Keep away from there will be, there have been, and all the variations. Don't bury them inside your sentences, either. Check out the following examples and improvements: Original: There were 23 references to public relations in the report. Revised: The report cited public relations 23 times. Original: There is a helpful section called “new entries” at the top of the page. Revised: A helpful section called “new entries” appears at the top of the page. Original: It's expected that in the future, there will be easier ways to communicate. Revised: We expect easier ways to communicate in the future. In every case, using an active verb does the trick, and almost all reworked sentences are in the present tense. Cutting the haves and have nots from your business writing Like the to be verbs, using the various forms of the verb to have signals lazy writing. Find substitute words as often as possible. A few examples and possible rewrites: Original: He said he had intentions to utilize the equipment he had been given by the company. Revised: He said that he plans to use the equipment the company gave him. Original: We have to make use of the talents we have. Revised: We must use our own talents. Using the passive deliberately Despite all the reasons for minimizing passive sentences, passive verbs are not bad. You need them on occasions when the actor is obvious, unknown, unimportant, or the punch line. For example: The computer was developed in its modern form over a number of years. After long trial and error, the culprit was finally identified as the Green Haybarn. You can also make a case for using the passive voice when you need to frame a message in terms of you rather than we or I. When writing to a customer, for example, you may be more effective to begin as follows: Your satisfaction with the product is what we care about most. Rather than this: We care most about your satisfaction with the product. The second statement gives the impression that it's all about us. Of course, don't write an entire letter like the first opening — just the first sentence. The passive is also useful when you don't want to sound accusatory. The bill has not been paid is more neutral than You failed to pay the bill.

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