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  1. How to create and deliver a presentation that is worth sitting through

    August 16, 2016 by Alison Hill

    A friend in the financial services industry told me about a webinar she signed up for, and what a waste of time it was. I’m sure you can relate: after about 20 minutes she took a break and made herself a coffee. When she came back, the same slide was on her screen and the presentation had hardly moved along. She gave up and went back to her work.

    Mostly we’re not able to clock out of boring presentations. Either we need the information to do our jobs properly, or we are stuck in a meeting room with no way out. Most of us will be on the other side of the audience at some time, and have to present to others in the workplace. Knowledge-sharing is a vital part of work these days, and most of us will be called on to give a talk or slide presentation, or to create a webinar or instructional video at some time.

    Whatever method you use, here are some guidelines to follow and some handy resources to help you.

    1. Get straight to the point, preferably with a good story

    So many presentations – particularly webinars – have long introductions that add nothing to the experience. Hook your audience early with a pithy introduction and preferably with a good story that makes them care. There’s nothing like a human angle to get the audience involved. My financial adviser friend recalled the story of a retailer with no business interruption insurance. A car went through the shopfront, smashing the glass and ruining expensive equipment, which was covered, and closing the shop for a month, which was not. That got her attention much more than a statistic about lost trading revenue could ever have.

    1. Know who your audience is

    Actually, this should have been point one. You can’t deliver a good presentation if you don’t know who you are talking to. It affects everything from what technical terms to use (see point 4) to how long you will talk for and what visuals you will use. Take a page from the marketing playbook and create a ‘persona’ representing your typical audience member. How old are they? What do they do in their spare time? What do they already know about your subject? Why do they need to know about your topic? Do some research before you make the presentation, and then tailor what you have to say to that persona.

    A word of warning: it’s annoying to poll the audience at the start of your session and then not act on what you find. Countless webinars ‘poll’ the audience and then do squat to adapt the content to suit those findings. Either be prepared to adapt your talk, or don’t ask. Your audience will only feel ignored and tune out if you fail to respond to their needs.

    1. Don’t overcrowd your presentation with bullet points and endless slides

    Death by PowerPoint – we’ve all been there. There is no point in putting up slides filled with endless bullet points and reading them to the audience; not in person, and not online. Your audience will read your slides rather than listen to you, and they can read faster than you can speak. Use slide presentations to highlight the main points you will talk to and make sure they are interesting. We couldn’t say it any better than in this presentation about great PowerPoint presentations by designer Damon Nofar.

    1. Don’t use excessively technical jargon or in-house terms

    My finance professional told me how she attended a seminar dealing with legal issues in financial advice. ‘When the presenter used terms I didn’t know, I felt really out of touch. I felt dumb until I looked around the room and saw nearly everybody else looking awkward, and realised it wasn’t just me.’ The lesson is that if you have to use technical terms, explain them clearly in words that match the knowledge and experience of your audience.

    1. Use your ordinary speaking voice and put your self into the presentation

    Most of the time, presentations do not need to sound like a formal oration. It’s not the school debating society, nor the Gettysburg address. Put your true self out there and you will be much more likely to connect with the audience.

    1. Mind your professional manners

    My financial friend told me how at an industry event she attended, presenters had cracked ‘jokes’ about their competition in the industry, naming the organisations. Far from making her feel more positive about the presenter’s organisation, she was shocked by their lack of professional manners. Whether you are presenting internally or externally, slagging off the competition, be it another company or another team, adds nothing to your presentation. Bad jokes, in-jokes and snide remarks reflect badly on your professionalism.

    1. Create a strategy to deal with questions

    Think about your pace and how to engage your audience. Reading slides out in a monotone is not going to do it. Giving the audience a chance to ask questions, stopping to ask or answer questions yourself and periodically checking the audience’s understanding helps to keep people tuned in.

    Questions and answers need to be controlled, however. We’ve all been in a presentation where an audience member takes up the group’s time with questions that are not relevant to the rest of us. ‘I was impressed by a presenter who could deflect unhelpful questions’, my financial adviser friend told me. ‘He offered to collect all the questions and answer them at the end if his presentation hadn’t answered them, and dealt with important ones as he went along. He struck a good balance between being engaging and taking up too much time with things that were not interesting to most of us.’

    1. Call on the professionals

    Challenge Consulting’s People Services runs Presenting with Impact workshops on presentation skills, as well as a presentation skills test for candidates.

    Copyright-free images to use in your slides are available on many sites, including Pixabay.  Easy-to-use graphic design site Canva helps with images and infographics. Both can be used for free. Prezi is a great alternative to PowerPoint. There are plenty more learning resources and tools out there. Use them to make your presentations sing.


  2. Making your LinkedIn Profile Attractive to Employers

    February 10, 2015 by Jenna

    These days having a LinkedIn profile in the corporate world is almost a necessity. While Facebook and Twitter share your personal thoughts and opinions, LinkedIn will make you shine as a professional if you utilise it correctly.

    It’s an opportunity to share you’re employment history, qualifications/achievements. Effectively, it’s your digital resume. Your LinkedIn profile is available to a huge variety of employers. People are often head-hunted even when they aren’t looking for employment.

    However, if you are not using your profile to its potential, you could be missing out on opportunities without even realising it.
    An article by Emmanuel Banks posted on Lifehack shares simple steps to making your LinkedIn profile more attractive to employers:

    Treat It Like an Interview
    First impressions are quite important during an interview and so is your presentation. The same applies when formatting your online layout and choosing an appropriate profile picture.

    You want to create a positive and professional image so choose a profile picture that reflects you in a professional way. If it looks like you are on an all-night party bender, or modelling a bikini while on your latest holiday, you may be deterring employers straight away. This also applies to a poorly presented or poorly written ‘Summary’ or ‘Employment History’. If you are not taking the time to proofread or update your personal details, qualifications or skill, you could be automatically viewed as sloppy. If you are making LinkedIn connections with business professionals for the first time and they have potential to help you get your foot in the door, make sure you are advertising yourself to your best ability.

    Stay Connected
    The purpose of LinkedIn is to connect and network.

    Requesting a contact to connect allows you to provide a tailored introduction to the person and explain why you feel it is important to connect with them. You can then follow up with contacts on a to keep them up to date on your career. There are also groups for members within your industry where you can be kept up-to-date regarding networking events, news topics and discussions.

    It also shows your passion and genuine interest in the industry to keep connecting with others and participating in as many groups and interactions as you can. It maintains relationships with past and present contacts.

    Have Your Experience Vouched
    Your background and experience can appear even more attractive to an employer when they see that other professionals have verified your experience or expertise.

    Employers may be looking for a select set of skills for a potential role and it can prove advantageous when others verify your experience or even provide recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask past employers’ if they would mind verifying details or providing a recommendation.

    Keep Profile Up to Date
    It is time consuming for an employer to chase up information that isn’t included on your online profile. Important information can include; a good description of your current position, start and finish dates of your previous appointments, reference details or educational achievements.

    Even if you are not looking for a new role, it is important to keep your information up to date just in case you situation changes. This will also save you time if you do decide to look for work elsewhere in the future.

    What do you highlight on your LinkedIn profile that makes you stand out?


  3. Top 5 Interviewee Mistakes

    April 3, 2013 by Jenna

    Are you finding it difficult to get past the interview for the job of your dreams? Are you making the best first impression or have you turned an interviewer off? Remember, you have only one chance to make the best first impression, what are the Top 5 Interviewee mistakes and how can you overcome them?

    1. Body language & presentation.  How is your posture? Have you taken the gum out? Are you giving the interviewer eye contact? Are you warm, friendly and enthusiastic? Do you appear interested in what the interviewer is saying? Is your attire suitable for an interview – By this I mean is it more corporate friendly or something you would wear out to a party? You have one chance to make the best first impression, make sure your body language and presentation demonstrates your enthusiasm for the role.

    2. Not knowing enough about the company or job you are being interviewed for. Without preparation you can appear like a dear in the headlights. Review the company website and find out as much as you can before the interview. Be thorough enough to even ask a couple questions about the company and why you are interested in joining their team

    3. Not knowing what’s on your resume. Is your resume up-to-date and do you know the details on your resume – are you able to answer the questions about your resume? Can you explain gaps and achievements? Ensure that you know your skills and experience in detail so you can answer all questions required.

    4. Talking too much or not enough. Most people become nervous during interviews, sometimes nerves mean you talk too much or not enough. Learn what calms you, some people find practising interview questions, others find relaxation techniques such as deep breathing helps. Whatever works for you, don’t be afraid of short pauses, and remember an interview is just a conversation to learn about each other.

    5. Mobile phones. Keep them switched off or on silent if need be so that it does not interrupt the interview! And unless it is an emergency, do not answer the phone during an interview, ever. Completely basic, but you would be surprised by how many people make this simple interview faux pas.

    Now while these mistakes may appear like common sense, if you are applying for multiple positions it can sometimes slip our minds to avoid some of these simple mistakes that could ruin your first impression.

    What are the worst interview faux pas you have made or seen at an interview?

     


  4. Are You A Confident Person?

    August 28, 2012 by Jenna

    Self-confidence – let’s just say some of us are born with it, and for others it can take almost a lifetime to achieve.

    In business it can be vital, being confident in yourself is infectious, if you present yourself well, others will want to follow in your foot steps towards success.

    Unfortunately many of us are not as self-confident as we should be. Many successful people, regardless of the success they have achieved, don’t believe in themselves. Are you sabotaging yourself through your lack of self-confidence?

    • Avoiding doing certain things because you fear your ability to cope.
    • Covering your lack of confidence by pretending, to hide the way you really feel.
    • Withdrawing from other people in certain situations
    • Regularly thinking negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities.

    When taking on more responsibilities in the workplace, this can also be a test of one’s self-confidence, whether it is being confident in the new role, confidence to deliver the project adequately, or just overall being confident in front of your colleagues. I know for myself I have had to develop my own self-confidence as I have faced new challenges. I have taken on many different roles and positions of authority within the workplace, and when dealing with colleagues and clients, I have had to learn to grow and adapt in each new challenge, and as some of these positions had a certain aspect of ‘sales’, if I didn’t project myself in a confident manner, the sale would not be made. I’ve even had to develop the confidence to pursue a new career path, which for anyone is a big step outside of the comfort zone.

    I have had to learn to be more self-confident with each new challenge that I have faced. Steven Berglas from Forbes outlines this development of self-confidence as two phases:

    Phase 1 – Eliminating Self-Doubt

    1. Understand it’s origins – Stemming from childhood, since no one can live up to the standards set by ego ideals, we spend the rest of our lives (to greater or lesser degrees), plagued by doubt. This is irrational, of course, but true.
    2. Accept it – There’s a school of psychotherapy—called “acceptance therapy”—based on the insight that admitting you suffer from a problem reduces the distress it can cause.
    3. Fess up – Chances are that real acceptance won’t kick in without sharing your anxiety with someone you trust. Think you’ll flub a presentation? Give one to friends.
    4. Look at the facts – If a claustrophobic person gets stuck in an elevator, it’s hard for them to focus on the certainty that, any minute now, it will be moving again. Fear and panic simply take over. The same tendency is true with self-doubt, but unlike with claustrophobia, a few hard facts can help. Example: If you’ve been promoted somewhat recently, remind yourself why you were tapped. Make a list of all your valuable skills and accomplishments.

    Phase 2 – Boosting Self Confidence

    1. Know that nothing is inherently threatening – A dreadful event can be made manageable if you tell yourself you have the stuff to cope with it. Remember that.
    2. Confront your fear – Fear, no matter its source, is a formidable adversary. That’s why you have to pick a fight with it. William Jennings Bryan claimed, “The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear.”
    3. But choose your battles – If you pick the battles you engage in because you believe in their aims, your self-confidence will increase along with your winning percentage.
    4. Once you master something, stretch – Add more challenge to every task you tackle and your self-confidence will grow in lockstep. Level off for too long and you’ll be on the slick slope to burnout.

    Have you always been a confident person? If not, what measures did you have to take to achieve where you wanted to go within the workplace?


  5. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Work Uniforms

    October 5, 2011 by Jenna

    I tell you, one of the highlights of my week is reading through the comments left in our weekly online poll. There is always a marvellous range of responses, from the profound to the very silly indeed.

    Our latest poll asked: “If getting your dream job meant wearing a terrible uniform, would you still take it?” 

    One response was the deeply philosophical “we all wear silly costumes”. Makes you think, eh? 

    And of course, another response was “my dream job involves wearing no uniform” and yes I know who you are … honestly … 

    The results were:

    Yes – 79%

    No – 11%

    Other – 10%

    Overall, people were fully prepared to “suck it up” and wear whatever uniform was required (within reason!) for their dream job. One respondent commented that a uniform can be a blessing in disguise, saving you the daily hassle of selecting something to wear. Good point. 

    And of course, a uniform means that everyone else is wearing it, too, so even if it is ghastly, it’s not as though you’ll be the only one looking like that! Ultimately, if it’s your dream job, you’ll wear anything. As another poll respondent said: “as long as I remained credible in terms of the specific job, and the uniform suited the company’s image, I’d wear a clown suit or whatever was required!” 

    So, why do many companies require their employees to wear uniforms? 

    A key reason is that a uniform conveys a standard image of a company. It is a form of advertising, it can create a sense of team solidarity, and makes it easy for customers to identify company employees. 

    Of course, many employees would prefer to have the opportunity to express their sartorial individuality and see the uniform they are required to wear as an infringement upon their individual rights. I think I would feel quite strange and a bit affronted if my workplace suddenly imposed a work uniform policy. 

    However, if you’re starting a new role at a company that has a clearly stated work uniform requirement, then you’re going into it with your eyes wide open and, really, have no recourse to complain. 

    I also asked a few friends, informally, during the week about their workplace dress policies, and everyone said that whilst there was no official “uniform”, there was, at the very least, an unspoken yet clear dress code in place, which was obvious the moment you walked in. Some work in super corporate environments where suits for men and women are the minimum standard. Others work for companies where a slightly less corporate vibe might be in place, but where certain levels of appropriate dress and presentation were expected and upheld. 

    I would say that most of us, starting a new job, would certainly take our workplace dress cues from those around us, no matter where we were employed, and if that meant feathered headdresses and sequins or gumboots and overalls, that’s what we’d be wearing.

    Are you more productive in a noisy or quiet (office) environment? Tell us in our latest online poll and stay tuned for the results in next week’s ChallengeBlog post …________________________________________

    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …




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