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Presenting Effectively

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


There are more than enough blogs out there that will promise that they can teach you to present powerfully, magically, persuasively  and with impact.  Perhaps they can.

But, to me, these claims seem to be somewhat hyperbolic in the context of a short article – or even series of articles – that most readers will scan for nuggets and hope to put them into practice all in one go.

Let’s be more circumspect.  For most managers who need to present occasionally, their number one and two concerns are to get their message across effectively, and feel good about doing it.  So print off this set of exercises, and next time you need to do a presentation, follow the exercises one at a time.

Exercise 1: Prepare your Presentation

Here are the two most important questions you need to answer before you do anything else.  Write them down and then complete the sentences.

1. What is the central message of your presentation?

When I have finished presenting and leave the room, if I could overhear what people are saying, I would want to be able to hear them say…

2. What do you want people to do as a result of hearing you?

When I have finished presenting and leave the room, if I could see what people do next, I would want to be able to see them…

Presentation Questions

Everything that goes into your presentation must underscore your central message and work towards justifying your call to action.  Only when you have the answers to those two questions clear in your mind should you start to work on the content, and then the introduction, to your presentation.

Exercise 2: Rehearse your Presentation

This is how you find out what works and what does not.  It is how you lock the essential messages and neat turns of phrase into your memory.  It is how you start to feel confident with your performance.

Rehearse once, informally, to get the measure of what you have prepared.  Rehearse again to feel its flow.  Rehearse again to feel comfortable with the material.  Rehearse in front of a colleague to get their most essential feedback.  Rehearse again to incorporate it.  Rehearse again to lock in pauses, drama and rhythm.  Rehearse one last time to feel in complete control.

Exercise 3: Get there Early

Arrive wherever you need to be in good time to freshen up, check your appearance in the bathroom mirror, and set up any technical logistics.  Circumstances will vary considerably, but aim to be good and ready to start well before you are likely to meet the first members of your audience.  That way, you can turn your full attention to them without having to think about the technicalities of your presentation. If your presentation is virtual, these same rules apply.

Exercise 4: Own your Platform

When you are on your platform, think of it as yours.  Take pauses.  Look at your audience.  Use the space.  Be natural and think of this as a conversation with each person in the audience.  You can be yourself and, while I don’t encourage ums and ers, they are a natural part of your speech, so don’t worry about them unless you have previously had it highlighted by an objective observer.  A few here or there will not matter a jot.  Neither will that little detail or great quote you planned to add in matter – even if you forget them.  Only one person in the room will know you missed it.  Everyone else will be focusing on what you did say.

Further Reading

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Questions, Questions, Questions

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


  • How do you gather the knowledge that you need, to do your job?
  • Who do you go to for wise advice?
  • When you find them, how do you access their opinions?

Do you get it?

Of course you do: questioning is the way we explore our world, the way we discover new ideas, understand problems, and find solutions.  Questions are how we raise awareness in ourselves and others, how we help people to learn and how we get the answers we need.

So one could argue that management is all about questions and answers.  That would be easy.  It is far harder to determine which is more central to your role as manager: are you there to ask the right questions, or to find the good answers?  (please debate that question in the comments section)

We often think questioning is easy, but there is a skill to it, which consists of three essential disciplines:

  1. Spotting what to question
  2. Structuring your questioning process
  3. Asking your questions artfully

What to Question

Listening to people can give you all of the clues you need about what to question.  Here are five examples of the most questionable types of statement:

  1. Adverse outcomes beg questions about causes, and assumptions about causes beg questions that seek evidence to justify or falsify them.
  2. Interpretations of events beg the question of what evidence supports that interpretation.
  3. When someone is struggling to master a new skill or technique, asking the right question can direct their attention to the most important insight.
  4. Generalised and prejudicial assertions beg the question not just of how you know that they are true, but of whether they do indeed stand up to objective evaluation.
  5. When you are asked for a solution, questions will help you to understand the problem better.

The fallacy of petitio principii, or ‘begging the question’, arises when a proposition which requires a proof is assumed to be true without that proof.

The Questioning Process

The Questioning Funnel

Learning more from a person – or even a scientific enquiry of nature – follows a clear process:

  1. Big, open questions to get a survey of the relevant information.
  2. Probing questions that explore more detail about the particular areas of interest
  3. Closed questions to test understanding and confirm facts
  4. What if? questions to test how the answers stand up to experimentation and related scenarios

Artful Questioning

One question has more power than any other.  It is the one that small children ask repeatedly and the extent of the frustration it generates in their carers underlines its potency:

Why?

The question ‘why’ probes deeply, looking for causes, reasons and purpose.  As a scientific enquiry into nature, or as a diagnostic probe into events, it is hugely effective, as underlined by the ‘Five Whys’ process within Six Sigma.

But things are different when you ask a person why they did something.  You will usually get a defensive answer.  ‘Why?’ feels like an attack on the values that direct our decision making, so we react against the question and rarely give a resourceful answer.  A better question might be: ‘what were your criteria when you chose to do that?’

How else can you ask the question ‘why?’
without using the word ‘why’?

Further Reading

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Words, Voice, Expression, and what?

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics This is part of an extended management course.


Is there anything more to say about the famous Albert Mehrabian and his experiment that showed (or did it?) that, in conversation, our message is conveyed in words, voice and expression?

First, we need a refresher on Albert Mehrabian, because I don’t want to take your level of knowledge for granted.

Exercise: Research Albert Mehrabian

The Mehrabian Pie Chart

Mehrabian’s work is often represented as showing that our words, voice and expressions carry elements of our meaning in the ratios 7:38:55.  It doesn’t.  It shows, in just one experiment that has never been repeated, that, when our words, vocal style and expressions conflict with one another, then other people put most weight on our expressions and least on what we actually say.  I will make it easy with two excellent references:

  1. I wrote about this for Training Journal in July 2007
  2. An easier way still, to learn what Mehrabian really means is to watch the wonderful three and a half minute video by Creativity Works on YouTube.

The ‘and what?’

Without a doubt, your words, voice and expression all convey elements of your intended meaning.  But there is something very important that Mehrabian did not explore.  It often makes the difference between being understood quickly and accurately on the one hand, and being hard to understand, and even misunderstood, on the other: structure.

How you structure what you say has a profound effect on people’s attention levels, on their comprehension and, indeed, on your credibility as a speaker or writer.

Compare these two scenarios, for example:

Ami describes her insight in a rambling way, starting with what she was thinking and digressing from time to time, repeating herself and qualifying her comments.  When she finally stops, she looks up and says ‘do you follow me?’.  Most people nod, but think ‘no, sorry, I don’t’.

Bettina starts by saying ‘here is what I think’, then follows it up by saying ‘and here are three reasons why I believe this is correct’.  She gives the reasons, one after the other, then finishes by saying ‘so, to conclude, […] is well supported by the facts.’  … and she stops.

Who will be easier to follow and more persuasive?

A formula for structured responses

Persuade, convince and win arguments with clear and structured comments.

  1. This is what I noticed
  2. This is what I think
  3. This is why I think it (one, two or three reasons; maximum)
  4. Reiterate your conclusion

This is far from the only formula, but discipline in structuring what you say will not only make you more credible when you do speak, it will make people want to hear what you think.

Further Reading

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Get in Sync with Rapport

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Rapport is the darling topic of NLP experts and self help gurus, going all the way back to Dale Carnegie and ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.  But what is it really, does it have the magic it is claimed to have and, if so, how can you deploy it?   We’ll take a look at these three questions.

What is Rapport?

Rapport really exists at two levels and its power come from the interplay between the two.  At the more superficial level, it is the sense that two people have, that they understand one another fully and share each other’s concerns.  At the deeper level, rapport exists when two people have a relationship based on liking of and trust for each other.

We recognise rapport in two people who are together, when we start to notice similarities in the way they dress, their behaviour, how they speak and their movements, which often become synchronised.  We say that they are ‘in tune’ with one another, they are harmonised, they are in sync.

How effective is Rapport?

Rapport is  a natural process, which has evolved to build and strengthen bonds.  The important question is not whether it is effective, but whether we can use it to our advantage in a conscious way.  The answer seems to be yes.  Used in an artful manner, rapport-building skills are effective in domains from counselling and therapy to sales and customer service.  They are also used by con artists, so beware.

There was an excellent article in The New York Times, called ‘You Remind Me of Me’ that discussed a range of experimental evidence.

How can you use Rapport?

The basic approach to creating rapport is to match the person you are speaking with.  Do what they do and echo their movements, vocal patterns and key words.  Do so subtly (but not too subtly – it feels natural and so is rarely noticed).

Adopt a similar posture and repeat back the most important aspects of what they say – using their words.  Make your movements similar to theirs in quality and quantity, but don’t just copy them.

Speak at about the same speed and repeat important gestures and expressions, like smiling and frowning.

Build it up gradually and start to notice not only how they are more open to you, but also how much more clearly you understand what they are trying to communicate.

Further Reading

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Listening

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


If you could create a shortlist of the most important skills that a manager must cultivate, what would be on it?  That is not just an idle question: please do offer yours as a comment, below.

On anybody’s list, I would expect to see ‘listening’.  It is a fundamental human skill and one that most of us take for granted.  It is even a skill the deaf can deploy, using different senses: listening means paying attention to what other people are saying.   So, no wonder it is a vital skill for managers.

So how can you do it?  Or, put another way,

‘How can we learn to do listening better?’

ListenYour exercise this week is to practise these seven steps.  Start with number 1, and practise this for a day.  On day 2, practise number 1 and number 2, and so on, building your skills as the week progresses. Keep a record of what you notice.

Day 1:  Care
Before you start to listen to someone, you have to care what they are saying.  So practise caring enough to really pay attention.

Day 2: Tune in
Carefully notice what the other person is saying.  Savour their words and the meaning behind them.

Day 3: Tune out
Tune out that constant dialogue that goes on in your head.  When you hear it, put it to one side and re-focus on what the other person is saying.

Day 4: Relevance
Listen for things that are particularly relevant, surprising, interesting.  What are the most important words that you hear and how do they relate to the substance of your conversation?

Day 5: Suspend
Suspending judgement is your toughest test so far.  Resist the urge to criticise, judge or react to what you hear.  There will be a time for that later, but when you let your opinions and prejudices get in the way of your listening, you miss what the other person says, thinks and feels.

Day 6: Notice
Notice what else is going on at the same time as they are speaking.  What are their speech patterns, facial expressions, gestures and movements.  What posture do they adopt and what is the quality of their movements.  All of this, when you really notice it, contains valuable information about the sub-text to their words.

Day 7: Pay Attention…
… to your listening process.  Put all of your Day 1 to Day 6 learning together and now keep aware of the quality of your listening.  When it starts to dip, notice it and re-assert the quality of your listening.

Further Reading

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Assertiveness

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is part of an extended course in management skills.


There is only one thing that you need to know about assertiveness, to fully understand it:

Assertiveness is all about respect

Assertiveness is about the respect you have for the people you deal with and for yourself.  Let’s see a summary diagram.

Assertiveness

Aggressive behaviour has little respect for the other person and instead, focuses on winning-out over them.  It can be controlling – even abusive  – and has no place in modern management.

Passive behaviour shows little respect for yourself.  It focuses on not getting hurt and so leads people to submit their own legitimate needs and desires to avoid the possibility of confrontation.  Often that possibility is more perceived than real.  Passivity shows itself in a fear to disagree, guilt at saying no, and a reluctance to offer feedback.  It too has no value to you as a manager.

Assertive behaviour is what to aim for.  Respect yourself and the other person and focus on over-coming events and getting the best result you can.  Do what is right: not what is easy and celebrate success.  Be collaborative, offer sincere praise and objective feedback, say what you think and feel, taking responsibility for your emotions and for your decisions.  Be confident to ask for help and support when you need it.

An Exercise

Think back to examples you have observed in colleagues of assertive, aggressive and passive behaviours.  Make a note of:

  1. some words you associate with each of these
  2. voice and speech patterns you associate with each of these
  3. facial expressions and patterns of eye-contact you associate with each of these
  4. postures, gestures and body language you associate with each of these

Exercise Part 2: Reflection

Now look over your notes.  Which of these seems most like you a lot of the time?  Which one do you tend towards during stress?

Assertively making a request

Be direct but courteous.  Be specific about what you want and offer details as appropriate.  You don’t need to apologise, unless you know you are putting someone out, but do say ‘please’.  The best asking words are ‘would you…’  Alternatives can seem weak (could you), doubting my ability (can you) or too direct (will you).  Finally, respect my right to say ‘no’.  If no is not an option, then be honest, and tell me.

Assertively disagreeing and putting your views

Listen intently.  Identify where we agree and disagree and acknowledge both.  Use ‘I’ to take responsibility for your point of view and be constructive in building on mine.  Offer reasons, facts and supporting evidence.

Assertively giving bad news

Be proactive in addressing the situation.  Make good eye contact, and prepare me with: ‘I have some bad news.’ Be brief and to the point, though never abrupt.  Be specific about the news, but the more complex and damaging it is, the less information I will be able to take in – at least at first.  Answer my questions and allow me to express my emotions.  You do not need to be defensive.  Be factual and caring and be prepared to help me work through the implications.

Assertively saying ‘no’

Be short, to the point, and respectful.  Offer reasons when you can and alternatives where appropriate.

Further Reading

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Personal Impact

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics with a return visit to our correspondence course in management.


As a manager you need to make an appropriate personal impact at all times in the workplace and when representing your organisation or business.

Here is a checklist of things to consider.  You may want to make a note in your notebook about how you propose to respond.  The best way to get things right is to look to the successful managers you meet in your organisation.  How do they carry off each of these things? What can you learn from each of them?

You will not, of course, want to copy their style, but rather, you should apply your own style, but recognise the appropriate levels of dress and appearance.

Personal Impact 1: Mental and Physical State

Start with your mental and physical state – this will profoundly affect how you come across.  If you have not done the exercises in the previous part of this course, they will be helpful to you.

Personal Impact 2: Dress and Style

Choose clothes of a quality and style that matches that of managers at your level.  If you are ambitious, look at how managers one level up from you dress and emulate them.  But be careful over-dressing to match top directors – that can be seen as presumptuous, over-ambitious or just quirky.  A personal style is fine, but make sure it is authentic to who you are and is appropriate to your environment.

Make sure that your clothes and shoes are well-cared for and use accessories to boost your impact.  A good quality, standard, off-the-peg suit need not cost much.  Add a few accessories and you will come across as far more classy.  These include your work bag, pens, tie or scarf, belt or brooch, bracelet or cuff-links.

Dress for Impact

Joke ties, cute phone covers and loud brooches are all perfect for the weekend, but if your accessories draw more attention to themselves than you can command on your own; ditch them.

It may be worth investing in a style advisor who can help you select clothes and colours that work for you.  Alternatively, if you have a trusted friend who dresses really well, ask them to help you with shopping.

Personal Impact 3: Personal Care

Don’t waste money on great clothes if you are not going to take care of basic personal grooming: hair, teeth, facial hair and fingernails are particularly important.

Further Reading

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Self Confidence

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is the first of a series of posts on management skills.


Self confidence is the starting place for any manager.  Your promotion to managerial role has probably been triggered more by your expertise in doing your previous job, your reliability, and your character, than by any specific evidence of your managerial capability.  And that’s fine, because it is the way most of your colleagues were promoted too.

But it can leave you feeling a little nervous about your suitability to manage and, when your boss tells you to ‘get on with it – I have every trust in you’ you can feel a little isolated.  Your boss leaves you to it, your new management peers don’t yet trust you, and your team are wary of how you will treat them, now you have become a manager.

Here are three exercises to help boost your self-confidence.

Exercise 1: A Reassuring Word

Write down your answers to the following sentences:

  • ‘I earned my managerial role because…
  • ‘My three most valuable managerial assets are…
  • ‘The managers I learned most from are…
  • ‘I will know I am doing a good job as manager when…
  • ‘Things will go wrong; that’s life.  If they do, the people I can go to are…

Exercise 2: Seeing Success

Imagine it is Monday morning and you are in work, ready to start the day.  In a minute, close your eyes and picture yourself there.  Picture your first few conversations and meetings going well.  Notice yourself handling the situations effectively, feeling well-prepared.  As you go through your morning, picture everything you do going as planned. At each stage, notice how good that makes you feel.  At the end of your morning, imagine how positive and confident you will feel.

Now, close your eyes and play that movie in your head for several minutes.

When you have done this, make a note in your notebook about how you felt at the end of each part of your morning.  Write down what you did to achieve your successes.

This is an exercise to repeat several times over the coming days.  Each time you do it, choose another day and either the morning or afternoon.  Every time you do it, you will increase your base level of confidence.

Exercise 3: Power Poses

One of the reasons some people feel more confident than others is simply levels of hormones in their bodies.  For example, increased testosterone levels increase confidence, whilst increased cortisol levels decrease confidence.  Perhaps it is surprising, but your gross posture affects levels of both of these hormones and, whether you are a man or a woman, you can increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol, by adopting power poses.

You can do these poses for two or three minutes before going into a stressful situation and you can maintain confidence-boosting hormone levels by maintaining upright, open postures during your day.

Power Poses

Stand upright, legs apart – slightly wider than shoulder width – and put your hands on your hips.  If there is a table, counter or a solid back of a stable chair available, place your hands firmly on it, about 70-80cm apart (wider than your shoulders) and lean forward.  Adopt these poses for two minutes or so.

If you have a chair to sit on, try sitting upright, legs apart, with feeet firmly on the floor.  Plant your hands firmly on your upper thighs, with elbows outwards.  Lean your body back a little, with head a little forward.  Or try putting your feet up on a table, leaning back in your chair, with your hands clasped behing your head, elbows splayed out.  Adopt one of these for two minutes.

If these poses remind you of a typical ‘old-school alpha-male boss’, they should.  The difference is that you will adopt these poses privately for a few minutes at most, to boost your confidence for the next meeting; rather than maintain it in the meeting to intimidate your colleagues.

Upright Postures

For all-of-the-time posture, keep to standing with feet at hip or maybe shoulder width, head upright, as if pulled by a puppet string, and arms by your sides.  This open body, coupled with upright posture, will not only make you feel more assertive, but will enhance your breathing, your vocal tone and projection and present your image as confident and authoritative.

Further Reading

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Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

Customer Journey

Customer JourneyYou can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. That’s the principle behind mapping out your customer journey. It’s a way to get an insight into how it feels for your customers to deal with you at each step along the path.

And since understanding your customer is vital to making them feel good about buying and using your product, customer journey mapping is a valuable tool to support this Big Idea.

Continue reading Customer Journey: Mapping your Relationship

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Sunk Cost and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Sunk Cost

‘You’ve bought it now. The money’s gone.’ That snarky comment made by thousands of parents (mine included) to their reckless child encapsulates the meaning of sunk cost. Once you met the cost, it’s gone: sunk. You’ve sunk it into the investment for good or for ill.

This, then, could be the shortest Big Ideas article yet. Sunk Cost is a familiar and easy concept.

Continue reading Sunk Cost and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

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