Development Cooperation Handbook/Communication Skills/How to present an idea

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Swiss sknife.png Steps and Tools

Communication competence is the ability to decide which is the most effective and productive way to exchange information, depending upon circumstances and the situation you find yourself in. Being competent also means that you can do so without making the other party lose face.

To achieve that competence we will begin with the basic communication skills, and the tools you have to use to master them; how to make sure the message is presented clearly so that it can be understood; how to listen effectively; and how to respond to the person being communicated with.

For communication to lead to successful results, the messages that are sent must be carefully thought out before they are presented to make sure that they actually reflect organizational needs, wants, goals, and desires; in other words the organization’s mission and vision.

Underlying effective communication skills are seven important elements that are crucial for promoting excellence:

  • creative insight,
  • sensitivity,
  • vision,
  • versatility,
  • focus,
  • patience.


These elements collectively include the following:

the ability to ask the right questions
incorporating programme teams and other stakeholders into important organizational decision making
providing team members with a sense of efficacy and respect
the capacity to anticipate and adapt to change,
facing unforeseen challenges.
The focus there is on verbal communication; using language, either spoken or printed. Regardless of the form the message takes, you must make sure that:

You completely understand the message coming in;
You avoid being judgmental while the message is being delivered;
You shape the message going out to make sure that it, too, is understood;
You keep the messages—incoming and outgoing—focused and on topic.

Guidelines for Effective Presentations[edit]

Establish Your Communication Goal  
Before you try to convince the others of the value of your idea, first you have to clarify to yourself:

  • - What do you want to say?
  • - To whom do you want to say it?
  • - How do you want to say it?


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Identify key concepts and order them strategically
Once you have clear the idea you want to present and what you want to achieve by presenting it, you have to concentrate upon the modality of making this idea clear to your audience.
First rule: Do not present many "ideas" (you will confuse your audience): Just present one coherent vision.
The coherent vision will be composed of different elements: Develop the main points and order them strategically.
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Steps to building a presentation  [edit]


Once you have established your goal and identified your target audience, you should take the following steps to construct your presentation.  

  • Step 1, Develop a General Premise: Constructing a presentation will require that you begin by developing your goal and translate that goal into a general premise you will state to your audience.
  • Step 2, Generate Main Points and Organize Them Strategically: After you have established a premise, you will be able to generate main points to support this claim. Be sure to coherently organize these main points so that the audience can easily follow your flow of ideas. Limit the number of main points to 2-5 for clarity and time, keep main points separate (transitions separate ideas) and balance the time spent on each point.
  • Step 3, Create an Introduction and Conclusion: After you have developed your main points, you will need to fill in the introduction and conclusion. Create the introduction first—the conclusion really reiterates much of what is said in the introduction. The introduction opens the speech and is responsible for getting the audiences attention, relating the topic to the audience, establishing the speaker’s credibility and previewing the main points of the presentation.  
  • Step 4, Fill in Transitions: Prior to delivering your presentation, your final step will be to develop transitions that lead your audience between parts of the presentation and between distinct, main ideas.


Build your Credibility -[edit]

A communicator’s ability to influence is largely determined by the Credibility  assigned her/him by an audience. In terms of communicating orally or in written form to external stakeholders, the preceding discussions of audience, organizing ideas and using evidence are instrumental in establishing one’s credibility. For example, using good evidence and explaining it to an audience will enhance your perceived competence. Your trustworthiness will be assigned based on how honest you are when you speak and write and how well you communicate sincerity in relation to your audiences. Demonstrating a genuine concern for your audiences will also increase this element of credibility. When you speak confidently and assertively and inspire others with your energy and words, you will be perceived as dynamic. How well you put messages together and how well you communicate ideas will be assessed carefully, particularly by external audience who may need to rely on the information you provide for their well being or livelihood.

Use Compelling Evidence[edit]


Credibility of a speaker’s or writer’s message depends largely upon the quality and quantity of evidence used to support her/his claims.  
External stakeholders will be particularly skeptical about the information presented by an organization, particularly where their money, time and/or safety is involved.
Therefore, it is imperative that you provide solid support for the messages you create for outside audiences.
Supporting materials should clarify and offer proof for the arguments you make. 


Listed below are some of the most common types of supporting material.

  • Illustrations: A type of example that uses a detailed story to explain or clarify. They are not intended to provide proof. For example, you could explain how your organization provides extensive training and apprenticeships for field representatives, ensuring their value to the organization.
  • Specific Instances: Short examples that clarify or prove a point. They provide a way to say a lot quickly in a way that makes the topic relevant to the audience. For example, you could explain how one manager who did not receive a pay raise for five years, but gave up her first raise so that her team members could receive larger pay increases.
  • Statistics: Numerical data arranged to show a trend, correlation, or relationship. Statistics serve as a measurement and are often used as proof. For example, you could provide numerical data which shows how your organization has maintained workforce levels during times of financial distress.
  • Analogies: A comparison between an unfamiliar concept and a familiar one to clarify a concept that might otherwise be difficult to understand. For example, you could compare your organizations transition to a deregulated market with similar examples in New Zealand where workforce levels were maintained.
  • Testimony: A statement or endorsement given by someone who has a logical connection to the topic and who is a credible source. Testimony can be used to either clarify or prove and is often used by referring to the research of experts. For example, you could quote a study conducted by an independent auditing organization which con organizations your organization’s ability to financial support current workforce levels. 

Before using testimony, ask:

  • Is the material quoted accurately?
  • Is the source biased, or perceived as biased?
  • Is the source competent in the field being consulted?
  • Is the information current?

Using Visual Aids Appropriately And Effectively[edit]

One way to make your presentation vivid and memorable is through the use of visual aids. Although computer generated and projected visual—and presentation—aids are commonly used, it is still important to understand how to use them or any other type of visual aids in your presentation. Here are some pointers for the effective use of visual aids:

  • Write your outline first, then design your visual aids. Avoid reversing the process.
  • Select visual aids appropriate to the point you wish to illustrate or clarify. Visual aids should support, clarify, and amplify, not repeat what you are saying.
  • Make sure that the intent of your visual aid is clear.
  • Use only important or memorable words or phrases: eliminate any unnecessary word slides. Limit the number of words to what you could fit on a T-shirt.
  • Pictorial slides have the biggest payoff.
  • Use color for impact. When is the last time you saw a black-and-white television set? Make sure that your visual can be seen and understood by the member of your audience who is farthest from the screen.
  • Practice with your visual aid.
  • Don’t begin or end your presentation with a visual aid.
  • Introduce visual aids so that they blend smoothly with your speech.
  • Maintain eye contact: talk to your audience, not the visual aid. Touch the important point; turn to the audience, and talk. Don’t read from your visual aid.
  • Display visual aids only when discussing them.
  • Avoid passing visual aids around the audience.

Guidelines on Effective Writing[edit]

Here are 10 steps to help you improve writing:

  1. Know what you want to say.
  2. Know who you want to say it to.  
  3. Know how you are going to say it. 
  4. Research and organize your ideas. -
  5. Be logical. 
  6. Back up your statements with facts, evidence, and other support.  
  7. Do not overwhelm your audience with statistics or numbers. 
  8. Build your Credibility
  9. Keep it simple
  10. Keep it short.


Guidelines for Public Speaking[edit]

  • Know what you want to say.  
  • Analyze Your Audience  
  • Prepare the Speech - Make Your Speech Speaker Friendly 
  • Do not overwhelm your audience with statistics or numbers.
  • Make It Believable, Simple, and Short 
  • Relax the Voice.
  • Relax the Mind.


Speaking to Inform Guidelines for Informative Speaking[edit]


Speaking to inform is designed to helping your external stakeholders understand something, which requires that you assume the role of a teacher. While informative speaking might appear to be easy and natural—after all, how hard can it be to share information?—truly effective informative speaking requires that you carefully attend to your audience, provide appropriate information, explain terms you might consider self-evident and treat your audience as already knowledgeable subjects.
 Key things to consider before preparing a presentation designed to inform include:

  • Audience knowledge of the topic. What does your audience already know about what you are going to say and how can you connect the known with the unknown.
  • Goals for presenting this information to this audience. What does the audience need to know and why? Goals are intimately connected with audience. For example, what details you share about organization financial status will differ, depending on whether your audience is a tax inspector, an external auditor, the community of beneficiaries or the new employees.
  • How much the audience needs to know to meet your goals. Again, you need to share enough information with a given audience so that they understand what you are saying, but you cannot give so much information that an audience will lose your main point and get caught up in minutia.
  • What types of information will best illuminate what you are trying to teach. Illuminating ideas is primarily accomplished through the use of evidence. Certain ideas are best illustrated with numerical data and other information is clarified through examples or narratives. Again, audience plays a primary role in determining what evidence will be considered credible to your audience. For example, investors generally care about the bottom line—profit. beneficiaries want to know that you are concerned about their welfare and quality of life as well as about the costs they incur by purchasing your services.
  • What the key ideas are that the audience should remember at the end of your presentation. Organize your presentation—be it oral or written—into three or four main points so that the audience will remember the most important elements of your message with greater ease.  
  • Make the information accurate, clear and meaningful to your audience. You make information accurate, clear and meaningful by doing careful research, by being honest with your audience, by associating evidence with a main idea and by explaining what the evidence means in relation to your topic.


Speaking to Persuade [edit]

When speaking to inform, an audience whether the audience is made up of employees, union leaders, senior management, the general public or a combination of these, it is very important that you follow some simple guidelines:

  • Avoid overestimating what your audience already knows. Explain your ideas thoroughly and clearly. Provide definitions, explanations and examples wherever necessary and don’t assume that the audience already knows what you are talking about. For example, if you are instituting a new billing statement to beneficiaries, you will want to describe the new bill by relating it to the old and by defining any new elements that may appear on their statement.
  • Remember to relate the topic to your audience directly. Find out what interests or what is important to them and direct your presentation to those interests or needs. For example, you will need to explain to your beneficiaries how new policies and procedures will benefit them as well as the organization and how you are planning to make their lives easier during this time of transition.
  • Avoid being overly technical. If the information is too specialized for this particular audience make sure to carefully define the necessary terms and replace unnecessary jargon and obscure language with words and concepts that the audience can understand and relate to.

Guidelines for Building Effective Persuasive Arguments[edit]

  • Develop Your Credibility   Earlier we talked about the need for establishing credibility in your presentation. We said that credibility is the perception that you are qualified to speak on a particular topic. We also mentioned that your credibility needs to be reinforced throughout your presentation. This is even more true when it comes to persuasive presentations. In fact, the very power to persuade is often contingent on those assessments of your credibility.    
  • Choose the Appropriate Appeals  Any argument requires the use of appeals, be they appeals to credibility, appeals to logic, appeals to emotion or appeals to cultural values. As you persuade, you will necessarily use all four types of appeal as they are interdependent components of proof used to support claims.   
  • Address Resistance and Concerns of the Audience  Finally, in persuasive situations it is important to anticipate the potential resistance and counterarguments your audience might feel. When you have a sense of what objections the audience might raise, you can and should address the most significant points of disagreement in your message.

Handling Question and Answer Sessions[edit]

Often after giving a presentation you will be called upon to answer questions from the audience, particularly when you are delivering a presentation to the press corps, in a meeting of investors or at a union function.
Question and Answer sessions (Q & As) can be quite intimidating, but if you have thoroughly researched your topic and have anticipated the types of questions you might receive, you will be better able to handle anything you are asked.  
Here are some guidelines for handling Q & A sessions:

  • Make sure you understand the question. To check for understanding, paraphrase it for the inquirer. For example: Are you asking why we propose a 2% annual increase or how we estimate that this increase will match increases in the cost of living?
  • If you did not understand the question, ask for clarification. For example: I don’t understand what you mean by total compensation package.
  •  Repeat the questions for the benefit of those in the audience who may not have heard it. For example: The question is, “What raises do we expect to propose over the next 5 years?”
  •  Don’t let the questions move off of the topic. For example: I appreciate your concern over profit-sharing with beneficiaries, but today’s focus is on investor relations.
  •  Answer directly and succinctly. Tell them what you know, why you believe it, or what you believe. If you don’t have answer, tell them so or volunteer to find out the information and provide the answer at a later time. For example: I did not hear the President’s comment about eliminating unions. My understanding is that she is committed to union participation. I will check the minutes from that meeting and address this issue at next week’s press conference.
  • Look at the questioner as you answer the question, but still present the answer to the audience as a whole.
  •  If the questioner starts to give a counterspeech, politely interrupt and ask for his/her question. For example: Thank you for your concern, but we only have time for one more question. Do you have a specific question I can answer?
  •  After answering, check with the questioner to determine whether you answered the question to his/her satisfaction. For example: Did I address your concerns?