The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: professional communications

The value of professional communications

World Cloud of RCOM102 Course DescriptionEveryone needs to communicate – it’s what connects us to others and how we share our ideas. Communication with others is key for success in all aspects of life, both with personal and professional relationships.

Professional communication can be verbal or non-verbal, encompassing the articulation of one’s thoughts and/or body language during meetings, in public speaking scenarios, or via email. Regardless of what industry you’re in, it is important to master so-called “soft skills” such as effectively communicating if you’re looking to advance into a more senior-level leadership position.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top five personal qualities or skills potential employers seek are:

  1. Communication skills (verbal and written)
  2. Strong work ethic
  3. Teamwork skills (works well with others, group communication)
  4. Initiative
  5. Analytical skills

Communication skills frequently make the top of the list for what qualities employers look for in all industries. Actions that professionals can take to become more successful communicators include:

Active listening 

It is important to concentrate on the message that someone else is communicating and exhibit behaviors such as eye contact to demonstrate your interest. Active listening also includes asking clarifying questions to ensure you fully understand what the person is expressing to you. If you listen closely, you will be able to analyze information from others better and more effectively respond to it.

Encouraging interaction through non-verbal cues

A lot of messages are communicated between people without any talking. Non-verbal signals such as posture, hand gestures, and eye contact impact how others will perceive you and your message.  For example, when speaking to a larger group, even a smile that shows confidence will go a long way towards engaging others. It is important that your non-verbal cues match up with the message you are trying to get across.

Being clear and concise

Whether expressing your opinion or asking questions of others, it is critical to get to the point quickly. Stating your ideas in a straightforward way will allow others to more easily understand what you are saying.

Using persuasive reasoning

There are often times when you may have an opinion that is different from someone else, but you have to agree to go forward with one. In times like these, using logic and reason to demonstrate the strengths of your perspective will go a long way. This means providing everyone with the facts and sharing relevant examples.

Knowing your audience

You’ll communicate with people differently depending on their backgrounds, professional titles, and experiences. It will be helpful to know what your audience is expecting from your interactions, so you can surpass those expectations.

Ultimately, there are many steps that you can take to improve your communication skills. One way to learn more is to take a professional communications course. Brandeis GPS offers part-time, online courses for adult learners looking to build professional development. Contact us for more information about our professional communications courses: 781-736-8787, gps@brandeis.edu, or submit your information.

The value of communications in professional settings

One of the most valuable skills in any workplace is the ability to communicate effectively and professionally. Although every professional uses differing language relating to his or her field, communication skills allow for one to thrive in a collaborative work environment. In order to succeed, professionals need to be comfortable speaking and presenting in a range of environments, from small meetings, to larger individual or group presentations. While many people are often not comfortable giving speeches or delivering presentations in professional settings, through practice, these skills can be honed and perfected.

Brandeis GPS’s online Professional Communications course arms students with these skills. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Develop verbal and nonverbal communication styles by applying verbal and nonverbal skills in various speaking situations; videotaping and viewing one’s performance; critiquing one’s style; and receiving diagnostic evaluations.
  • Use techniques, such as cognitive restructuring, to reduce speaker apprehension.
  • Increase effectiveness in informative and persuasive message development using audience analysis, principles of organization, principles of Aristotle’s rhetoric, language devices, and supporting material (examples, narratives, testimony, and facts and statistics).
  • Write with clarity, brevity and vigor.
  • Strengthen self-awareness, assertiveness skills and listening skills to improve interpersonal, small group and public communication.
  • Analyze best practices for running an effective meeting.
  • Critically evaluate messages in terms of various criteria for effectiveness.

This course is available for professional development or as part of several GPS graduate programs. At GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in a program. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. View our full course catalog here, and preview our spring 2017 courses here. Registration for the spring 2017 term opens on December 20.

Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

Meet the Brandeis GPS Instructional Designers

At Brandeis GPS, we are always working to improve our online courses to be more interactive and collaborative. Meet two of the reasons we are able to constantly improve. Carol Damm & Jennifer Livengood, our instructional design team!

jennifer-livengood

Instructional Designer, Jennifer Livengood

carol-damm

Instructional Designer, Carol Damm

How long have you each been in the instructional design field?

Carol Damm: Before GPS, I was with a  company that developed e-learning for about three years.

Jennifer Livengood: Four years as a full time job, but professionally ten years.

What is your favorite part of your instructional design work?

CD:  It’s hard to narrow it down! I like problem solving.  Instructional design is like being given a blank slate, and for me what’s fun is trying to figure out which is the best approach. So I guess it’s the process of finding out which design works best for a course.

JL: Being creative. It’s in the job title!

What are ways you can use to innovate an online course that you can’t use in an in person course?

CD: Bringing the students a one -on-one interactive experience with a topic.  With an online courses you can actually use tools to help develop students skills and increase collaboration.

JL: You can build things that are individually interactive, so the student gets individual attention. An online classroom is  a place for students to explore through a discussion board. Quiet students can communicate more in a discussion board where they may have been been shy in person. It truly brings out personalities.

JLQuote

Can you tell me about a great experience you’ve had designing GPS courses?

CD: What I like about it the most are the instructors and working with them. I feel like I am a perpetual student because, for many of the courses, I have no experience in most of the instructors’ fields of expertise. I love connecting with them and advising them on how to engage students with the topics and materials in their courses.InstructionalDesign

JL: Working on the professional communications course with Jennifer Drewry. We both brought our own ideas and between the two of us we were able to revise her course and make it more fun and interactive.

Can you tell me an example of a specific improvement you have made to a course and any feedback you’ve received as a result?

CD:  Lately, I’ve made recommendations on how  an instructor can take their topic and create effective discussion questions that will allow students to bring their own experience and knowledge to the discussion. You want the students to bring their ideas into this more social realm and to be as collaborative as possible not only with instructors but with other students.

JL: At a previous job I made the improvement of having the instructors come in and do a video. They weren’t previously in the course. Having the students come in and see their [professor’s] face, hear their voice. The student feedback said they liked it!

CDQuote

What is the most creative thing you have ever done for a course?

CD: Working on developing a presentation, a micro-lesson, that will teach some rudimentary SQL (Structured Query Language) coding. What I want to do is make it interactive so that students will have to put in the right code to get to the next lesson. It’s creative and students really respond well to the interactive lessons. In the past I’ve done some videography work as well as editing. I love that, it’s lots of fun, very creative. The two contribute to a lesson and make it more interesting.

JL: Working with two instructors in the language department and creating interactive games for their courses. Really pushing the limit on some of the software. It was unique and fun for the students. Unlike taking a normal multiple choice quiz where it’s a little boring.

Footerindesign

One mistake presenters should never make and 8 strategies to avoid it

by: Lisa Nielsen

Whether workshops, panels, keynotes, or classes there is one mistake presenters should never make. It is a mistake I learned to never ever do from a wise lady early in my career. I’ve heeded this advice and seen the negative ramifications of those who do not. Ramifications such as a frustrated, unsatisfied, and anxious audience as well as less than favorable reviews and feedback. Additionally, when presenters, don’t heed this advice, the chances of their audience incorporating what they’ve learned into their work, decreases.

Fortunately, if you remember this one piece of advice, your future presentations will be brighter and your audience will leave more satisfied.

The advice is…

Always make sure your audience feel “they have everything they need to be successful.”

Presenters fail when they say things like:

  • “We have a lot to get through today.”
  • “I am speaking quickly so we have time to cover everything.”
  • “We’re already behind schedule.”
  • “In the interest of time…”

Or do thinks like:

  • Require participants to take down everything you say, because you haven’t provided it to them. They’re focused on the low level task of copying, instead of the higher level thinking of making meaning.
  • Not provide a detailed, timed agenda that could be turn-keyed.
  • Not tell up front and remind participants in the middle and end what goals are and that they are making strides in accomplishing the goals of the session.
  1. Build in extra time at the beginning
    Start out by putting your audience at ease. Create a collegial atmosphere as folks arrive. Perhaps a simple do/now ice breaker where you ask participants to talk to the people around them and find out what they hoped to get out of the day. This gets minds flowing and allows for a relaxed start with a networked room.
  2. Plan for latecomers  
    Latecomers can throw off and delay a presentation. When you address the audience ask them to be the ones to fill in a latecomer should they sit next to them and let them know what to share.
  3. Provide ALL materials
    Speaking of what to share, keep it simple. Create a link where participants can access EVERYTHING you’ve shared. This way they don’t worry about missing anything and you don’t have to worry if they didn’t get something down.
  4. Ensure Materials Can Be Re-purposed Don’t share materials in PDF. Don’t give access without copy ability. Provide materials to participants so that it is easy for them to make their own, customize, and bring back to their work. This is a wonderful gift for teachers (time!) and students (great new learning materials).
  5. Smart Name Tags
    You know that link I mentioned above? Don’t worry about saying it over and over or having to keep putting it back on the projector. Provide name tags or cards with all the information participants will need i.e. a link to the presentation, Twitter hashtag, how to connect to the internet, etc. This way, the answer to every question is “It’s on your name tag.”
  6. Sum up the learning
    At the end of your time share all the new things participants will be able to do as a result of your time together. This way you’re focusing on what they have learned. The audience is assured that they got what they came for out of your time together.
  7. Take backs
    Ask participants to share (verbally or via Twitter, text, post it) in 140 characters or less one thing they’ll take back to their work. This reinforces their learning.
  8. Use reassuring statements
    Let the audience you know you are right on track with statements like:
    • “After our time together you’ll know exactly how to…”
    • “We are right on time.”
  9. Have two plans
    Have one plan if the class moves slowly. Have an additional plan if they move quickly. If they do, let them know that they were so on point they get bonus learning. If they move slowly, they’ll still know exactly what you told them they would learn.

So what do you think? Have you experienced presenters who try to rush through information? Have any of these strategies worked for you? Are these strategies you would try when you present?

 LisaNielsonPic
 Footerindesign

My Student Experience

by: Daniel Mongeon

Twenty-three years.  That’s the length of time that has eclipsed since I last enrolled in a “for credit” course.  I earned my undergrad at that time and never looked back, until recently.  I had been contemplating taking a course for both professional development and as a possible gateway to applying to a Masters program, but I didn’t really want to do it.

My two sons are 5 and 3.  Seeing them when I arrive home from work is the best part of my day, but it’s still stepping from one job to another.  The second best part of my day is when they’re tucked into bed and I can indulge in some “me” time.  I guard that “me” time jealously and I didn’t want to have my vigorous schedule of TV and reading interrupted by coursework.  Thankfully, my wife and my mother, an educator, wouldn’t allow me to rest on my laurels and I enrolled in RCOM 102 Professional Communications for the Spring 2014 term.

As the opening day for GPS courses approached, my dread increased but I tamped those program-hero-itm1feelings down with hollow sounding (to me) platitudes about “stepping outside of one’s comfort zone” and prepared for the 10 weeks to follow.  After reading through my syllabus and posting my initial introduction, I mapped out a schedule that seemed doable.  Wednesday would be my day for required readings.  Thursday would be for researching and posting my response to my instructor’s discussion post.  Friday would be for working on assignments and responding to posts by my classmates.  Saturday would be a day off, a break from schoolwork.  Sunday, Monday and Tuesday would be for completion of any tasks that needed to be wrapped up by the end of the course week.

It was a good plan, but what is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?  Right.  Life happens.  Sometimes a buddy I hadn’t seen in a while would only have Wednesday night free to hang out.  Perhaps I had a commitment on Friday.  There was that wedding to attend in Brooklyn on the weekend of Week 8.  There were times that I just couldn’t wrap my head around getting my work done and would stare at my computer screen, trying to will an idea to pop into my head.

skills-pmpI got through it, however.  Mores to the point, I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed reading posts from other students and constructing a decent response.  Through the research I had to do for my discussion posts and assignments, I learned things that could assist me in not only my job but my day to day life.  Our instructor was excellent at keeping our discussions moving if they bogged down. I found satisfaction in logging in to the class and seeing if there were any responses to what I had posted.  Getting my grades back and reading my instructor’s feedback pushed me to shore up the areas that needed strengthening.

Mostly, I found that stepping outside of my comfort zone wasn’t just an empty platitude; it was a way of “exercising” unused mental faculties and coming out the other side having discovered that I have the capacity to fit more education into my hectic life.  I found that you can come to like something you initially dreaded.

I got an ‘A’ in the course and plan to continue my studies. Although for now, I have some Red Sox games to enjoy, an instructional baseball team to coach and waves to catch.  See you in class.

About the Author:

Daniel Mongeon is a Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Student Advisor. He has been with GPS for over 3 years and knows all there is to know about your student experience. He is a graduate from Emerson College and loves to surf, watch the sox and spend time with his family.

Following Your Storyboard: Key to Effective Presentations

By: Phil Holberton

Original Post from: http://holberton.com/sol_vol-3-no1.html

marketing-sales-presentationsPutting your storyboard together is one of the most important activities of preparing to give a presentation. Each storyboard should contain the following elements.

  • Opening
  • Main Points
  • Supporting Points
  • Details – For Clarity
  • Closing

I’m often amazed when I see corporate business plan presentations. They look like the preparer took all the information in his or her head and dumped it into a PowerPoint® presentation. Not only do they seem just a data dump, but they don’t communicate the necessary information–they prevent the audience members from comprehending what is important. Our job as leaders is to convert/translate data into information, adding our interpretation and wisdom to the content.

Many corporate presenters are communicating very complex information–much of it scientifically — or technically-based. Sometimes the information is so technical and complex that it is over the heads of audiences. The first activity that every presenter needs to focus on is, “who is your audience?” Understanding the capacity of your audience will help you design your storyboard. The real challenge comes when the audience capacity is so broad that you have equal risk of speaking down to people as you do of speaking beyond them. One gifted presenter I have the pleasure of knowing and working with will spend time developing a simple primer of the subject to be covered, starting out with simple statements and examples, and escalating the degree of complexity, thereby bringing his audience along. Less skilled presenters will start right in on their subject without any warm-up–and they lose their audience at the very beginning. This is especially common when a presentation builds upon preceding theories. Once you lose your audience, it is difficult to get their attention back.

From the list of storyboard elements, start with the last one, developing your closing, first. Always begin with the end in mind. What do you want your audience to take away from this presentation? Is it information? Do you want them to move to action? Knowing this in advance will help you build your presentation. After you are clear about the outcomes, then you can begin to put your main points into place.

“In the beginning…” Isn’t this a famous saying? Well, in the beginning of your presentation, you need to set the tone of what you intend to cover and lay out the framework of where you are headed. Establishing a bond with your audience is key to gaining their confidence in you as the presenter of the information. Look audience members in the eye, use pauses effectively, and open strongly by sharing with them the scope of your subject and what your approach in presenting it will be. At some level, you are “selling” them on listening to you. And, let’s face it, we are all nervous when we begin a presentation, but don’t use jokes to fill an empty space and don’t set expectations that you can’t fulfill. All along, we want a style of presentation that establishes credibility with the audience–not by telling them how good we are, but instead by sharing examples that support our material and demonstrate our expertise. Being perceived as an expert is paramount to delivering an effective presentation. This convincing can be quick for some, but for other audience members, it may take some time.

Reach_Your_AudienceIn our presentation, we want to identify the two or three main points that we would like our audiences to remember. These main points must be reinforced throughout our presentation. Repetition does not necessarily hurt. Many times, presenters are so enamored with all the material they know about a particular topic that they just carry on with so much detail that it is impossible for the audience to absorb all the content. This data dump, as opposed to the communication of relative information, adds confusion instead of clarity. Details should add clarity to the subject, not burden the audience with superfluous data.

As presenters of information, you should add your “spin” or “wisdom” to the content. Part of the presentation objective is to communicate content with color and part of the color is your opinion. Just make sure that your opinions are supported with information. Opinion is the value add that we provide as the deliverer of the content.

Unfortunately, we (me included) often feel so pressed for time, that we bypass the important step of building the storyboard, moving directly to creation of the presentation. Take an hour or so of quiet and map out your presentations. Like most important activities in our lives, if we take the time to plan, we will be happier with the outcomes.

Now ask yourself… “Am I a Leader?”

About the Author:

Philip Holberton, BA, CPA, is the founder of Holberton Group Inc – Speaking of Leadership, a business advisory firm specializing in strategic, organizational, and executive coaching. He is an adjunct faculty at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies and serves on our Professional Advisory Board.

Mr. Holberton is the author of the popular blog – Speaking of Leadership. 

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)