Break down the talk barrier

One of the biggest challenges facing IT executives is acquiring the "soft" management and communications, writes Robin...

One of the biggest challenges facing IT executives is acquiring the "soft" management and communications, writes Robin Crockett.

These skills are vital in companies where IT enjoys a central role. Staff may be technically expert, but to seize the opportunity of having an influential management position, they need to demonstrate brilliant communications skills.

This may include giving a presentation. The first step is being clear why you are presenting. Know your audience and their needs. What are they expecting? How much do they need to know?

The next stage is to structure the presentation in three parts - introduction, main body and ending. The start should make the audience sit up and take notice of the theme and scope of your talk. It should also aim to build a rapport between you and the audience.

The main body should present information clearly and logically. Remember to find examples and anecdotes to illustrate facts. Aim to have three key messages, if you have more people forget.

Your ending must reinforce your message. It should be short, definite, conclusive and said with meaning. Finish with a bang.

"IT specialists should be reassured to know that speaking in front of an audience, internal or external, is a prospect that terrifies people from all disciplines," says Barbara Malpass, director of Training Solutions, who has trained many executives. "The key to conquering anxiety is in the mental interpretation of feeling. Adrenaline is a positive force and you can use it effectively to harness your nervous energy."

The voice conveys much information about the speaker. If used as an asset, it can communicate assuredness and control and add variety to help the audience maintain interest.

Body language is important in how your presentation is received. People who make good eye contact are perceived as trustworthy, confident and friendly. Gestures should be lively and comfortable. Stand tall and be perceived as confident. Use space well and move with purpose and enthusiasm.

Good speakers project their personalities. They speak in a way that reflects their natural conversational style and do not read from a pre-prepared script.

Visual aids can add variety and clarity but shouldn't be overdone. It is the speaker's qualities, what is said and how, that makes the greatest impact.

Combining technological competence and communications skills enhances career advancement. You too can become a great presenter and reap the benefits.

Robin Crockett is an independent HR consultant
To contact Training Solutions e-mail: [email protected]

Top tips for talks

  • Have a clear purpose

  • Focus on the audience

  • Structure in three parts

  • Harness nervous energy

  • Use voice for enthusiasm

  • Make eye contact and use body language

  • Project your personality

  • Use conversational style - never read

  • Practice, practice, practice.

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