A Summer School perspective

Ok, avid Diary readers (all 3 of you)…I am on break from school. In fact, I have a full 6 days until the next summer session starts. Summer school is putting a serious drag on my summer, but a necessary evil if I want to graduate before my son is old enough to drive.

Finished up my business communications class last nite. Not exactly my favorite, but I did enjoy the consultant brought in to teach us how to communicate more effectively. We essentially had a 4 class bootcamp (and 2 Saturday labs) on how to talk in front of people. Comes down to a couple of simple concepts, that take practice:

1) Eye contact – you won’t believe this, but if you are looking people in the eye when speaking you won’t say ‘um’. Seriously. I didn’t believe it until I sat around in a room for 4 hours and watched it happen to classmates and myself. As soon as someone looks at floor or away, the ums starting rolling in.

2) The power of the pause. People talk way too fast and subconscious think everyone else is staying with them. But we aren’t. We need the pauses to absorb what was just spoken. Pauses also allow the speaker to think for a sec without rambling and losing the audience. Our consultant gave us something to think of when speaking…Your mouth is in the present, your brain is in the future (thinking of what to say next), and your audience is in the past. You need the pause for them to catch up.

3) Ditch the powerpoint slides. Its amazing to watch all the pointless slides people throw out that are just rows of text. It insults the audience as we all can read. I now spend my meetings picking apart presentations.

4) Incorporate a STAR. STAR is Stake, Actions, and Results. Stake – Tell your audience your view, such as “I personally believe we need to do XYZ” Actions – What you what your audience to do, like “I want you to be aware of ABC” Results – “If you do what I ask here are the benefits you will receive”

5) Forget about you…its all about the audience. Be listener focused. Know your audience and what interests them, and play to that.

As a part of the class, I had to give a 5 min speech for the final where we are graded on eye contact, content, movement, having a hook, etc. I did OK, not great but OK. The main thing is that I learned some parts about myself that aren’t that great, especially when I am trying to convey things in a presentation. The first step towards fixing things is being aware of them. As a result, I’ve been consciously trying to incorporate some of the teachings into my business life to get my points across and hopefully look somewhat coherent. For instance, eye contact and pauses are making their way into my repertoire.

The rest of the summer session for the course was on written communications, conflict resolton, negotiation, interviewing, and ettiquette (which was sort of funny). Spent an evening learning which fork is the fish fork and the silent ways to communicate with waiters at fine restaraunts. I’ll never get to use the waiter tricks as I only eat at places that don’t care if a baby is crying or not (like Chipotle or Lily’s). But the good thing is my resume is now revamped and I’ve got some bright ideas for the next time I negotiate for salary (cha-ching). So I guess it wasn’t all bad afterall.

The biggest beef is that the hours are brutal, 6pm to 10pm. Not a fun way to spend a nite after working for 8 to 9 hours. And as added fun, I had class 3 straight Saturdays. Now you might see why the Diary has suffered. Ugh.

Next up on the agenda…Accounting. Then a week off until Fall semester. Such is the life of a grad school student.

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