Monthly Archives: April 2018

Presenting in English when you’re not a native speaker (or even if you are)

For many people, having to speak in public is worse than going to the dentist, touching a spider, or seeing a snake in the back yard – maybe even all three combined! When the person is not a native speaker of English it can be even more nerve-wracking.

I recently ran across an author that may be helpful to you or some of your team members. Deborah Grayson Riegel and her colleague Ellen Dowling wrote a book called  Tips of the Tongue: The Nonnative English Speaker’s Guide to Mastering Public Speaking.

She posted a video on YouTube that summarizes three key points to keep in mind, whether or not English is your native language.

First, prepare thoroughly. This includes practicing what you plan to say. Out loud. More than once. I’m prone to fall into the trap Grayson Riegel warns about: spending all my time polishing the slide deck and none of it practicing what I’m going to say. As Anita mentioned in Monday’s post, that is an important part of preparation.

During the speech, Grayson Riegel recommends that nonnative speakers should not worry about having an accent, but they should slow down the speaking pace. Even native speakers of English have accents, reflecting which region they are from. Slowing down and articulating clearly, especially at the beginning, helps listeners understand each of our unique speech patterns.

Finally, she recommends pausing often during the presentation. It gives the listeners a chance to absorb and understand, and it gives speakers a chance to gather their thoughts.

These tips can help all of us be better public speakers, and they are especially helpful for nonnative English speakers.  What other tips have worked for you?

Dee Anne Bonebright

 

 

Bridge building

Not all bridges look alike but they are crucial connections when we need to get from one place to another.

At its core, leadership communication is about building connections between people – who all have their own lived experience, point of view, culture and ideas. Communication gets more complicated when you want to connect genuinely with someone who sees the world differently than you do!

Authors Claire Raines and Lara Ewing in their book, The Art of Connecting, provide tips and ideas to help leaders communicate across all points of view. They describe five principles that help strengthen connection:

  1. There is always a bridge. Move from asking if you can connect to asking yourself what you will discover and use to connect. Remind yourself that with persistence there is always something to use as a bridge between two people.
  2. Curiosity is the key.  Stay open to what you are hearing and experiencing when you are interacting with others. Remind yourself that everyone has something to teach.
  3. What you assume is what you get. Perception is reality when dealing with people.
  4. Each individual is a culture. Everyone is a complex and unique combination of factors. Don’t rely on one or two pieces to define anyone.
  5. No strings are attached. You can only control yourself. Your genuine curiosity and connection can’t be used as leverage to influence others. Authenticity is crucial.

If you look hard enough you will find a bridge to connect with anyone!

Todd Thorsgaard

Communicating with clarity

Have you ever listened to a presentation and walked away not knowing what you were supposed to do with the information? Worse yet, was there a time where you didn’t remember much that was said? As leaders, we face the challenge of how to create memorable messages and communicate with clarity all the time.

Knowing that, my team and I decided to ramp up our game recently and do a dry run of three separate presentations we were preparing. After each practice presentation, I asked the team to provide constructive feedback to each presenter. What we learned in the process was invaluable.

While each of us thought we were communicating our information clearly, once each slide deck was presented, the resulting messages weren’t always crystal clear. One of our team members remarked, “I’m not understanding the purpose of your presentation…what do you want the audience to do with the information?” That one question helped each of us refine our approach, reduce the number of key points we tried to communicate, and create clear consistent messaging. The outcome was much better when each of us went “live” with our presentations last week.

Focusing on the top 2 or 3 messages you want your audience to hear and understand can really help refine a message. Additionally, here are some tips for communicating with clarity adapted from workplace communication skills expert Deb Calvert:

  1. Consider Your Audience: Who is your audience? What specifically do they need to know? And what do you want them to do with the information?
  2. Say Exactly What You Mean: Think about communicating your message in a direct and unoffensive way. What superfluous information can you eliminate?
  3. Avoid Jargon: Eliminate specialized terminology that may not make sense to your audience. Keep language clear and understandable.
  4. Keep it Short and Simple: What are the highlights and key points in your message? Be prepared to answer questions, but don’t overwhelm your audience with details unless they ask.
  5. Ask for a Playback:  What do you expect your audience to do in response to your communication? To check for understanding, ask them to play back what they will do.
  6. Over-Communicate: Is your message important? If so , repeat it! Repetition helps people to remember key messages. In my team, we have a saying “8 times, 8 ways.” People need to see and hear a message multiple times through multiple channels in order to retain the information.

What tips do you have for communicating with clarity?

Anita Rios

 

 

 

 

 

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I would have made it shorter

I wanted to start this post with the quote “I’m sorry this is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” Turns out that has been attributed to a lot of people, starting with Blaise Pascal in 1657 and including Benjamin Franklin in 1750.

That means that for at least 350 years people have known that it’s harder to write a short and concise letter or document than a long one. Twitter aside, that is still true.

Here are some tips from writing consultant Mary Cullen at 87 advanced tips for business writing:

  • Purpose: Before you start, ask “who is my reader” and “what do I want them to know or do?”  If you don’t have an answer, there’s no purpose for continuing.
  • Plan: For a standard business document or email, spend about half of the time planning and half of the time writing.
  • Everyday language. Avoid jargon. Never use a big word when a small word will do.
  • Clear language. Use strong verbs (“We need to decide”… is better than “we need to make a decision”…) Any time a word is not truly needed, cut it.

Cullen says that online readers can only handle about 7 lines of text before readability goes down and they are more likely to skip it.  Adding headers, lists, and white space can help – as in the paragraph above.

As leaders, we can feel too busy to edit. But taking the time to remove extra words and present a clear message can save time in the long run. People will actually read what we send and are more likely to get the point!

Dee Anne Bonebright

How to listen? – Don’t talk!

Simon Sinek offers a simple, yet powerful, rule for leaders to be better listeners. Refrain from sharing your opinion until everyone else has spoken! It is his “Lesson Four” for successful leaders.

Your people are super-attuned to your words and behaviors and naturally search for cues to understand what your priorities are. This human tendency can get in the way when you want to hear their opinions, ideas, insights or concerns – to truly listen to them.

Inc. magazine recently shared three tips to help leaders “talk last” to ensure that their people talk first.

  1. Listen – and do absolutely nothing else! Don’t speak verbally or non-verbally. Do your best to eliminate gestures, head nodding, comments, affirmations, or concerns until all have shared and others have commented.
  2. Ask questions like an interviewer. When you do talk start by asking “unbiased” or clarification questions. Think of yourself as an outside interviewer who just wants to better understand what you have heard – with no stake in the game! Seek to discover the “why” behind their ideas and then the “how” before you add your perspective.
  3. Disagree and commit. If you have concerns about what you are hearing, continue to explore the reason behind their ideas until you completely understand the why  – then share your ideas. If possible commit to trying their idea or search for potential alternatives that address all points of view.

I think you will be impressed by what you hear if your people have the space to speak – first!

Todd Thorsgaard

 

Not feeling heard?

“We didn’t feel like we were heard.

People were dancing around the topic to avoid offending anyone.

How can I get my message understood?”

Do those comments sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Those exact phrases were shared with me last week by a leader who was asking for help to communicate more effectively.

While the acts of listening, speaking, and sharing ideas seems straightforward and simple, they are anything but; especially when you add in the fact that we each bring our own filters or lenses through which we interpret messages. And if there are positional power differences or emotions are running high, communications can be fraught with peril.

During this month, we will be taking a deep dive into our Minnesota State leadership competency: communicates effectively, defined as:

  • Effectively conveys ideas and shares information with others using appropriate methods
  • Listens carefully and understands differing points of view
  • Presents ideas clearly and concisely

Please join in the conversation by sharing your leadership and communication challenges.

Anita Rios