End-of-the-School-Year Resource Roundup

Yes, indeed, the end of another school year has arrived, and I am already thinking ahead to the next academic year. In planning ahead, I’ve also reflected on the past year and realized I have gathered a LOT of online resources related to business communication. I’m guessing many of you are like me in that you never really leave the classroom and are always thinking about the next semester, class, or lesson.

The articles below appeared in the news feed generated by my Zite app, and I then saved them to Pocket. (Zite and Pocket, by the way, are probably my two favorite apps.) You can also find more resources by following me on Twitter (@pjglentz) or viewing my teaching board on Pinterest. If you have any “must have” resources you’d like to share with us, please do!

Corporate Culture

Design & Typography

Email

Employment

Grammar

Interviews

Leadership & Teamwork

Persuasion

Presentations & Oral Communication

Research

 Rhetoric

 Technology & Communication

 

Creating a Business Communication Industry Advisory Board

In our College of Business, all of the functional areas (e.g., accounting and finance, management, international business, health care administration, marketing, information systems) have business advisory boards. This year, our Business Communication Department joined the fun and formed its board as well.

Unlike the boards in the other functional areas, where the members are from that professional field, the BCOM board comprises members from the fields of health care, information systems, communications, banking, accounting, finance, government, marketing, management, entrepreneurship, and K-12 education.

Our Goals

Our goal in having the board is to help us better connect what we do in the classroom to the needs of employers. Our hope is that by meeting twice per year (early fall, late spring) we can be a resource for professionals who may need projects completed that our students can do and learn from and that professionals can be a resource for us as we develop our curriculum.

Of course, another goal is to enhance the BCOM Department’s visibility in our College, university, and community and assert ourselves as a business discipline.

The Board’s Input

As you might imagine, putting a group of professionals in a room and asking them to talk about entry-level employees’ communication skills yielded a lot of interesting information:

  • Tuning in: Several commented on how interns and entry-level employees tend to come to work, insert the ear buds, tune in to their music, and tune out the rest of the world. While the music may help them focus, employees miss the conversations around them that help them learn the culture, develop socialization skills to fit with the culture, and gather useful information from those informal workplace conversations.
  • Communicating data: Another common remark was that many interns are weak in their ability to communicate quantitative and qualitative data meaningfully.
  • Analyzing an audience and corporate culture: Board members talked a lot about how interns and entry-level employees would communicate better if they were to invest the time analyzing audience and culture.
  • Having a command of the English language: Grammar, mechanics, and punctuation were also mentioned as areas students need improvement on—both written and oral.

Our three-hour discussion covered many more topics, but you can see the value in the professional community’s input as we teach our students and promote our value to the university community

In forming our board, we determined the fields we wanted to be represented on the board. Once we did that, it was a matter of making phone calls and organizing the meeting. If you have questions on how we formed our board, let me know. It’s been a fun and exciting venture, and we’re already looking forward to setting the agenda for our fall meeting.

PechaKucha What?

Those of you who were at the ABC Midwest-Southeast meeting in Louisville a couple of weeks ago may have attended a presentation or two about (or using) PechaKucha. PechaKucha (Japanese for “chatter”) is a delivery format in which a presenter delivers images in 20 slides, spending only 20 seconds narrating each slide. Because slides advance automatically after 20 seconds, presenters must stick to the time limit, meaning that the entire presentation lasts only 6 minutes, 40 seconds.

Why use PechaKucha? How might it help students in the business communication classroom?

  • PechaKucha forces presenters to really think about their main points and stick to them. The time limits on the slides ensure that presenters do not get off on tangents or extensively elaborate on their topic.
  • Because the slides contain mostly images rather than text, presenters avoid the trap of reading slides to their audience and instead focus on the delivery of their message. Another benefit, of course, is that audiences are not subjected to a mind-numbing reading of the slides and then left wondering why they attended a presentation when they could have read the presentation on their own.
  • We all know the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Because PechaKucha relies on images, audiences may be more likely to recall a main point or idea if they can associate it with an image rather than with a lot of words or lines of text.

To see an example of PechaKucha, visit the PechaKucha Web site and check out Greg Judelman’s 18 Tidbits on the Design of Change. You can learn the 18 tips in 20 slides in 6 minutes, 40 seconds…impressive and effective.

Is PechaKucha right for every business presentation? As with any communication channel, PechaKucha should be used if it is right for the audience, purpose, context, and content for a presentation. Do you use PechaKucha in your classes? If so, tell us about it.

Presentation Tips from a Training Expert

Human resource professional Peter Garber discusses “10 tips for better presentations” in his book Coaching Employee Engagement Training. Your students can use these as a nice little checklist when they’re planning the delivery part of their presentations.

Here’s his advice (in bold), followed by my brief explanations:

(1) Look the part. Garber advises putting careful thought into your choice of clothing and your grooming to show that you know what’s appropriate for the situation and to avoid drawing undue attention to your appeareance.

(2) Pay attention to your nonverbal behaviors. Your body language and your verbal message need to match. If you’re saying that something is important but your body and facial expressions don’t support that, you’ll confuse the audience and lose credibility.

(3) Get your voice heard. The simple point here is that your voice needs to be loud enough for people to hear it. Arrange to have a microphone if necessary.

(4) Practice “stage presence.” Your behaviors should add an interesting supporting dimension to your talk. Garber advises watching entertainers and emulating some of their movements and ways of interacting with the audience.

(5) Take a lesson from the weatherman. Weather forecasters are experts at integrating what they say with the visuals on the screen. They turn and focus on the visual at appropriate moments but then turn back to the camera to talk directly to the audience.

(6) Relate to the audience. As we know, any talk needs to have been planned with the audience’s interests and level of knowledge in mind. During the talk, you should be sensitive to the audience’s responses so you can adapt as you go–for example, going faster or slower or bringing in some audience participation.

(7) Pay attention to the environment. As the speaker, you have some responsibility for ensuring that the atmosphere won’t detract from your talk. Ask if people are comfortable and, if they’re not, see if you can change the room temperature, the lighting, or any feature of the environment that’s not optimal.

(8) Be a variety show. To keep your audience engaged, mix it up. For example, switch from lecturing to asking questions, include other presenters, or have the audience perform an activity.

(9) Entertain the audience. People like funny stories and personal anecdotes, and these can be instructive. Don’t be afraid to use them.

(10) Make them wish you had talked longer. Move along so efficiently and engagingly that people feel energized at the end of your talk–not worn out and glad it’s over.

These tips help us remember that a talk is a triple-channel form of communication, involving visual and auditory media as well as verbal content. The more skillfully presenters manage all three channels, the better the result.

“Social” Business Presentations

Earlier this week, I happened across this article from Mashable.com, “5 Tips for Making Your Presentations More Social,” and began to wonder how these tips might transfer to the classroom.

What intrigues me is the idea that student presentations could go beyond the traditional PowerPoint and all its neat features and engage both the student presenter and student audience in a way that makes presentations more interesting and dynamic.

The article says social media enables presenters to

  • Create anticipation
  • Create social friendly presentations
  • Use interactive polling
  • Use the backchannel
  • Keep the conversation going after the presentation.

As I extrapolate the suggestions from the article onto the classroom, I envision students using Twitter to get feedback on their topic during the planning and preparation stage. They might also use LinkedIn to network with possible sources for their presentations. I can see students bringing laptops or other mobile devices to class and using Twitter or interactive polling to provide feedback during a presentation or to ask questions of the presenter. After presentation, students might continue the discussion via social media.

You may already be incorporating social media in your presentations courses. If so, we want to hear what you’re doing.