Handling Q & A Like a Pro

Skilled presenters understand the importance of Q & A. If they handle it well, they’ll be able to use this time to convey their confidence and expertise, to reinforce some of the ideas they shared, even add in material they may have left out or glossed over. If a speaker stays positive and in control of their content and delivery, they’ll be able to continue to build credibility with those who agree with them, as well as win over the nonbelievers or those on the fence.

Q & A can also be a vulnerable time for speakers, as they could get tripped up, challenged, or attacked. Time spent brainstorming questions that could be asked, then preparing and practicing effective responses can help speaking pros minimize those fears. They’ve also mastered the four types of Q & A.

At the End of the Presentation

This is the typical point questions are entertained, certainly in more formal settings with larger audiences. The problem with ending with Q & A is that the longer it goes, the fewer and farther between the questions become. The back rows have already started to slip out the door and you end with a smattering of applause from the remnant that remains. And remember—there’s always a chance the questions may turn negative. What’s the last thing you want your audience to hear—your final takeaway? Or that audience member’s hostile take-down of you and your ideas? Pros are able to handle questions positively and concisely, sideline the off-topic questions, and navigate the challenging ones with tact and grace.

Before the Conclusion

This is my personal favorite. Why? If you insert your Q & A before the conclusion, a couple of nice things happen. The audience tends to regulate themselves because they know they still haven’t heard your conclusion. And you get to have the last word. You finish to thundering applause and everyone knows it’s done-done. So try, “Before I wrap-up, I have time for a few questions.” Take 3-4 of them, then move right into your final remarks and action step. Everyone will walk out of the room with your thrilling conclusion ringing in their ears.

Interruptive

Most internal work presentations are met with frequent interruptions from the audience, as they usually see this, not as a true presentation, but as more of a discussion. The executives in the room certainly do. So the trick here is to manage the incoming questions, remember where you were when they stopped you, then find a way to bridge back to your prepared content. Try not to let your answers last longer than the presentation itself. Be as concise as you can, then ask if that answered their question. Better to do that than to assume everyone suddenly wants an intense deep-dive into everything you know on the topic.

No Questions

It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? You ask the crowd if they have questions and they all stare back at you. You literally hear crickets. What should you do? First, don’t panic and, second, give them time! What seems like deafening silence to you isn’t to them. Their brains are processing everything they heard and they’re formulating their questions if you would just give them some time.  So wait, then gently ask again for their questions and, if you still don’t hear any, ask and answer the first one yourself. “You might be wondering…,” or “I’m often asked…,” or “Many people ask me…”  You could also ask a question of the audience – “Of the 3 plans I’ve talked about today, which would be most cost-effective for you?”

Are you a master of all these Q & A situations? Prepare for all four types and you’ll be able to call yourself a Pro!

© Jill Bremer 2018

3 Ways to Increase Civility in Your Workplace

We all want our workplaces to be havens from conflict, a refuge from the strife of the outside world where we can work together in harmony toward shared goals and objectives. In an ideal world, workplaces could be the model for the rest of society. But are they?

The reality is that workplaces are a melting pot, probably more diverse than the social groups we interact with and the neighborhoods we return to at days end.

Herein lies the problem:
• Can we all get along at work when the world outside is swirling with controversy?
• Can we hold those hot-button issues at bay and get our work done with people who may think very differently from ourselves?
• Can we find a way to discuss issues in a civil, empathetic and safe way as a way to open minds and build bridges?

What does “being civil” mean? The author of Rude Awakenings, which I had the pleasure of being a contributing author to, defined it this way: “Being mindful of the dignity of the human being in your sphere, taking care not to demean that individual in any way.”

Civility is linked to the Latin word civitas, which meant “city” and “community” and gave us the word “civilization.” The word itself suggests a larger social concern. When we’re civil, we’re members in good standing of a community, we’re good neighbors and good citizens. We have an active interest in the well-being of our communities and a concern for the planet we inhabit. Choosing civility means choosing to do the right thing for others, for the “city”.

The breakdown in civility begins when people start to believe they’re the center of the universe, rather than a cog in a big wheel. The seeds are planted when people start showing up late, blame others, fail to say “thank you”, or demonstrate a lack of sensitivity. Attitudes of “I don’t care what you think” or “That’s just how I am – deal with it” can have a ripple effect on others and turn workplaces into an “every man for himself” mindset instead of “we’re all in this together.” Civility teaches that every word you say and every action you take impacts others and care should be taken to make our “city” a pleasant and productive place to be.

So what can we do to make our workplaces more civil and the world a better place? Take responsibility!

There are three forms of responsibility to consider:

Professional Responsibility

When you’re professionally responsibility, you take responsibility for the work you produce. You arrive on time, meet deadlines, and pull your weight on projects. You listen well and follow through. You send clear and unemotional emails, leave intelligible voice mails, and stay “present” on phone calls. It also means you do what you can to advance the company brand and make your organization successful. You do more than what it simply required.

Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility means you take responsibility for yourself and your actions. You don’t blame or bash others and you admit your mistakes. You don’t yell, make derogatory comments, or spread gossip. You clean up after yourself in break rooms and bathrooms. You do the right thing even when no one is watching, like refilling paper trays, starting a new pot of coffee, or throwing away food leftovers. Those who display personal responsibility demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence and personal integrity.

Social Responsibility

Social Responsibility is the type of responsibility where you help others. Do you mentor, support, inspire, coach, encourage, and show compassion? If you’re a supervisor, supervise. If you’re a manager, manage. Are you a leader? Lead! Jump in and do what you can to help those around you grow and succeed.

Take responsibility – and our workplaces and world will be better because of it.

Incivility a problem in your workplace? Our full-day Civility in the Workplace workshop can help. Contact www.theedgeexecutivecoaching.com.

© Jill Bremer 2018

 

ESL + Executive Presence Coaching: A Winning Combination

If English is not your first language, communicating at work can often present challenges. Issues around pronunciation, grammar, jargon, and writing skills may be holding you back from making the impact you’d like to have in your company.

Learning a new language takes time. Research shows it can take 5-8 years for a person to learn a second language on par with native speakers. In the meantime, employers may be placing pressure on or have unreal expectations of those who deliver less-than-perfect written reports or misspeak during a meeting. Perhaps your own fear of mispronunciation or misunderstanding keeps you from feeling comfortable enough to jump in and share your ideas.

If your workplace doesn’t offer ESL classes, one-on-one tutoring may be the answer for you, a safe place where you can improve your communication skills out of the spotlight and away from those you fear making mistakes in front of. Tutors can customize sessions for your particular challenges and goals and fluency and accuracy can improve quickly.

But simply improving pronunciation and grammar may not develop all the competencies you truly need. Benefits can be gained by adding Executive Presence coaching into the program:

  • Conversation Skills – Small talk is an important communication skill and the first step in developing rapport, relationships, and business.
  • Business Etiquette – How well do you navigate the intricacies of meetings and greetings, showing deference, and techno-communications?
  • Social Skills – People gauge a range of abilities simply by observing one’s networking skills and dining etiquette.
  •  American Jargon – Every country has its jargon and idioms and American business has enough to fill a dictionary. Are you confident about what they mean and when/how to use them?
  • Nonverbal Communication – Body language communicates most of our content. Build your ability to read others accurately and adapt accordingly.
  • Presentation Skills – Doors open to those who can deliver a solid presentation. Coaching can help you develop these skills and increase your confidence.
  • Professional Image – Gain an understanding of your company’s written – and unwritten – dress code and present a consistent and cohesive personal brand.

ESL tutoring combined with Executive Presence coaching may be just the ticket you need to communicate clearly and effectively and build your visibility and impact. Don’t let your career stagnate when some individualized attention could help!

Can you afford NOT to offer ESL Tutoring at Your Company?

English has become the global language of business. Are your company’s non-native employees equipped to succeed in an English-speaking world? According to a survey conducted by IDG Research, 90% of business leaders say their departments face language challenges. However, only 5% of companies currently offer English-as-a-Second-Language services, according to SHRM’s 2017 Employee Benefits Report.

When workers are able to clearly communicate internally and externally, companies can realize exponential benefits. Work groups become more efficient and personal performances improve. Customer services strengthen as rapport is built easily and workers are better equipped to share accurate information, answer questions, and problem-solve without effort. Relationships can be nurtured when employees feel comfortable making small talk and understand cultural differences and the nuances of language and jargon.

On a personal level, employees feel supported when their organizations provide ESL assistance. According to a recent study, 44% of employees who participate in these types of programs were more engaged and 33% were able to advance within their organization. Their confidence increases as does company loyalty. Retention rates increase resulting in less turnover for organizations.

ESL classes and individual tutoring can be a professional development benefit attractive to many already in your workforce as well as other talented prospects you’d like to bring onboard. ESL offerings that include coaching in other soft skills such as presentation skills, nonverbal communication, and business etiquette can provide non-native speakers with a complete toolkit that will help you create a workforce able to compete anywhere in the world.

Looking for solution that combines ESL tutoring with Executive Presence coaching? Give us a call! Click https://theedgeexecutivecoaching.com/esl-tutoring/ for more info.

QUICK QUIZ – Your Presentation Skills

Here’s a quick quiz to test your presentation skills know-how:

  1. An effective transition is to read the title of each slide as it appears.
  2. A good rate of speech is 140 words per minute.
  3. A speaker should never interrupt someone asking a question.
  4. Laser pointers should be used with slide presentations.
  5. If I want to become a better presenter, I should take a class or find a coach.

Answers can be found by clicking HERE. When you get to that page, scroll to the bottom.

3 Tips to Better Listening

Listening is one of the most important things we do as human beings and projects a well-developed Executive Presence. It demonstrates respect to others, it enables us to understand the other people’s wants and needs, and it can inform and improve our responses. All of us yearn to be heard and acknowledged by others. The challenge is that we think we’re listening to each other, but we’re not. We’re usually just formatting our responses. As Stephen Covey says, we need to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Here are three strategies that can help:

 

1. Lower the “cone of silence”

Our world is filled with distractions, both external and internal. What pulls your focus away from the other person and their message? If you’re old enough to remember the ‘60’s TV show, “Get Smart”, you’ll remember the “cone of silence”. The cone would descend over two people who needed to privately discuss top-secret information. I know, the cone never worked and actually prevented them from hearing each other, but you get the point. When someone is talking to you, try lowering your own cone of silence to block out everything going on around you.

Distractions generally fall into one of these four categories:

• Your physical comfort – you’re hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, or tired.

• Your psychological barriers – you’re bored or daydreaming, or their topic triggers thoughts of your own past experiences.

• The speaker’s style – they have a monotone voice or accent you don’t understand, or their personal grooming presents a challenge (bad breath, body odor, etc.)

• External interruptions – phone calls or notifications, outside noise or activity, visitors.

Listening takes energy and focus. You must first decide to listen, then work to eliminate all distractions. Stop multitasking, maintain eye contact (where the eyes go the ears will follow) and lower that cone!

2. Clean out your filters

Every message we hear is run through our personal filters, which can include our opinions of the person or issue, our past experiences, prejudices about the idea, and personal agendas. They’re stored in our subconscious and prevent us from being truly present. These biases can distort the message and even trigger our emotions. Develop an awareness of your filters and don’t let them get in the way of true understanding.

Take responsibility for interpretation. Words mean different things to different people, so you might need to ask for definitions (“What did they mean by ‘in the running?’”. “Are you talking about the A Project or B Project?”). Ask clarifying questions if you’re confused (“Are you referring to…?”, “I think I missed something, can you go back to…”). Most people don’t add enough specifics when they speak, so instead of making assumptions and creating a disconnect, make it your job to help them communicate more clearly before you respond.

3. Summarize occasionally

A few summaries as you listen will not only help confirm your understanding of their content, but allow you to also figure out their intent“So what you’re saying is…”, “So you’re suggesting…, is that correct”? You’re floating ideas for confirmation and direction—and what they answer will help you formulate your next question or comment. Your summaries and questions can also help them figure out what’s missing, what’s possible, and what isn’t.

As you can see, effective listening often requires you to do some talking, along with focusing like a laser. Incorporate the three techniques above to their content—and your content will be better as a result.

©Jill Bremer 2017

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