Last night, I attended an event on Western’s campus on Effective Business Communications. The talk was apart of a series of Professional Readiness workshops, put on by the College of Business and Economics. In these events, a business executive comes in to talk to us students about different topics related to business and professionalism.
Last night’s subject matter covered presentation skills. To be honest, since I am a communication major, I did not hear much new material, however it was a great refresher and I really enjoyed listening to Bill Miller speak. What he brought in terms of experience was over 30 years of working in executive-level business positions (at different tech companies), and namely his experience at Microsoft as a marketing manager. What made him qualified to talk about presentation skills was his own experience speaking in front of people, whether it was large groups of 1000 people at a conference or a small five-person meeting. He shared a lot of his personal experience, especially touching on methods he used to help prepare or coach Bill Gates in doing major presentations on behalf of Microsoft.
The best tip that I took away from his spiel was to try and limit the amount of core messages of any presentation to three. Have three main ideas for the audience to digest. There can be sub topics that expand on those principal ideas, however only having three to begin with makes it easy to introduce your topic and keep yourself and the audience focused on your main purpose. He noted that this strategy can work well in other public speaking settings such as interviews. I have used this approach before with interviews and I find that it is super useful. I look at the job description and pick out the top three most important skills or aspects of the job. Then, I build a story of my experience based on those top three aspects. For instance, it could be strong work ethic, social media skills and creativity. The keywords become kind of a thesis statement that helps me to remember everything it is I want to say. It also helps me if I get nervous; they are like three keywords to guide my message every step of the way.
At the end of his talk, he had the audience members engage in a practice activity: the elevator pitch. I had done one before, but I was very rusty and after stumbling over an unorganized 60 second pitch, I realized I need to have one practiced and ready for use. As I am beginning to look for jobs, the pitch could potentially be the difference between meeting the right person or not.
To sum this experience up, I have three main takeaways:
- In any presentation, boil your information down to three main ideas
- Attend college events on professionalism, and don’t be shy to network!
- Always be prepared to do an elevator pitch!
Photo credit: mape_s (Flickr)