Hello 2014 – Fare Well, 2013!

Over last weekend, I’ll bet many of you, like me, were busy packing away ornaments, deciding which candles can be used again, and trying to find a youth organization to give our retired trees to for recycling. Or at least, again, like me – thinking about it!

And now it’s serious back-to-work time. Time to try something new. I’m not quite ready for 2014 yet – what happened to 2010, anyway? So, with a final salute, let’s wrap up 2013 with the Best of the Blog – a short collection of my top nineteen posts of that year, as judged by the number of “likes” each garnered. An “e-book” for want of a better name, and the first e-book I’ve ever done.

I’d like to give this compilation to you as a thought-starter. A new way of thinking about your writing. Or maybe as a way to address a New Year’s resolution to strengthen your on-the-job writing, making it faster, easier, and more effective. Totally free. Please email me (gail@gailtycer.com), and I’ll send you the free link.

We’ll talk about:

1. If You’ve Ever Said, “I Wasn’t Good at English in School…” Read This!

2. How to Say It When You Can’t Think of What to Say

3. Shorter, Fewer Emails

4. Strategic Email

5. Meeting Minutes

6. Writing a Successful Instruction

7. Writing a Powerful Presentation – Getting Started

8. Writing a Powerful Presentation – Finishing Strong

9. How to Write a Business Thank You Note

10. Nine Places to Find Ideas for Your Blog Post

11. “Spin”

12. Hide, Hedge, Mask, and Cloud?

13. How to Offend, Anger, or Frustrate Without Realizing It

14. How Many Common Writing Errors Do You Make?

15. Stronger, More Powerful Sentences

16. What Was That Again?

17. Words That Create Mix-Ups

18. Words, Words, Words…

19. Fatigue-Reducing, Confidence-Building Phrases

We’ll also include a few of our weekly Quick Tips, answering some of those pesky grammar questions.

So here’s to 2013, wrapped up with a bow – and on to a great new year: 2014. Let me know how I can help you to achieve your business writing goals this year. I’m totally committed to helping you write less, say more – and get results in 2014.

If you like what you’re reading, we invite you to subscribe to our blog.

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations, executive coaching, consulting, and writing services. To discuss how we can help, call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com


Business Writing Tip of the Week: Writing a Powerful Presentation – Part 4: The Strong Ending

“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye…” may come to mind as you think about how to bid adieu to your listeners. Sadly, most of us lack the skill to reproduce the musical escape scene from the classic The Sound of Music to conclude our business presentations, and so must resort to other means.

So how do you wrap it up when the time comes to say goodbye?ClappingBusinessPeople175

First of all, it’s time to end when you’ve said what you have to say, in the time allowed. No additional material; stick with what you’ve prepared. Then, be brief and to the point. Long farewells are hard on everyone – and especially on your audience.

You’ve used one or more of the techniques suggested in the previous three blogs on writing a powerful presentation for your business audience – people to whom you will be providing instruction; or presenting information to a board or council; or representing your organization at a meeting – or maybe even making a “real” speech.

In essence, you’ve used the tried and true formula in one way or another: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and now it’s time to tell them what you told them.” Here are some ideas:

  1. It’s probably more interesting for your business audience if you are willing to handle questions during the course of the presentation or training as they come up, rather than to make them wait to ask questions at the end, as is so frequently done. The understanding and retention level will generally increase as well.
  2. Alert your listeners that you are about to finish. And then get to getting finished.
  3. Reinforce the points you want your audience to remember – and especially “the takeaway” – that central message you want them to remember. If someone were to ask your listener afterwards what you said, how do you want him or her to answer? That is your central message, the takeaway.
  4. If you want to motivate an action, repeat specifically what your listener needs to do, and exactly how to do it.
  5. Almost there! It’s almost over: Pause. Make eye contact with everyone in your audience (remember the back and sides of the room) and express your pleasure in having had this time with them (if this is the case, and we sincerely hope it will be!) Perhaps you could mention something good that happened, or compliment them for something they did surpassingly well. Above all, you must be honest; you must be genuine. No made up fake stuff here.
  6. Then close strong. You could use a strong, simple quotation that is “spot on”; make reference to a story you told earlier, perhaps even telling “the rest of the story,” which – best case – could even have a surprise ending; provide a call to action; or summarize what you said (“tell them what you told them”), reinforcing the takeaway.
  7. Many other ideas will come to you as you work with your material. Think about each. Maybe even do a quick draft of that thought. Last words should last. Your conclusion should leave your audience thinking about what you said; should reinforce, and make your points crystal clear. And most of all, those enduring last words should move them.

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We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.


Business Writing Tip of the Week: Writing a Powerful Presentation – Part 3: Content is King!

O.K. then. You’re writing a speech – a presentation, actually – something like a training for a new process or procedure; a presentation to the board or council; or representing your company or agency at a public meeting. Or maybe it is a “real” speech!

We’ve talked about how to get started (part 1); how to grab your audience with a strong beginning (part 2); and now, let’s talk about what to say, and how to organize for the greatest impact.Giving a Speech

Remember thinking about “the takeaway” – the one main point you want your audience to remember from your presentation? You thought about your audience, the takeaway, and why it should matter to this particular audience. Then you thought about your sub points – the support, and perhaps enhancement for your one main point.

1.      Now, list what you want to say – main points, sub points, details – in any random order on a piece of paper as they occur to you. Select information based on your listener’s need for the information, how the listener will use the information, and your purpose for presenting this information. And nothing else!

2. When you are sure you have everything you want to say on that list, take another look at it. Cut out the deadwood. Even though it may be interesting information, if that piece of information does not build or support your main point and sub points, does not meet the reader’s need, reader’s use, and your purpose criteria above, get rid of it. It will only be distracting to your audience and dilute your effectiveness.

3. Are you realizing what you have done? You have saved tons of time because you have edited before you have written a word of your presentation! Next step: Group similar bits of information. Each group will be a section of the body of your speech, and you will organize each section as you write.

4. Organize your sections into a sequence that makes sense to achieve your objectives.

Now you have the skeleton of your presentation. Here are some additional points for getting it all together:

  • Know your material thoroughly – really know what you are talking about.
  • Know your audience; know what information will meet their needs and their use of each point – and your purpose! Reinforce your overall point, and why it should matter to them. Ask yourself if each piece of information you plan to use is appropriate for your audience. If not, cut it out.
  • Vary the length of your sentences – choose “comfortable” words that are easily understood. Make your transitions from one point to the next smooth, and clear.
  • With each transition, use a strong, clear sentence to establish your point, and then add the details to prove it. Use personal pronouns like “you,” “your,” and “we.”
  • To practice beforehand, read your speech out loud as you finish each section to hear how it sounds. After you’ve put it all together, practice it straight through. When you’re satisfied, time it as you would deliver it, to make sure you’re on your time target.
  • And perhaps most important: If you are trying to motivate an action, tell your listeners specifically what to do, and how to do it.

Next week: Wrap it up with a strong close that moves them!

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We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.


Business Writing Tip of the Week: Writing a Powerful Presentation – Part 2: Grab ‘Em With Your Strong Beginning

Think back to the last business presentation you’ve heard. A business presentation does not always involve a rapt audience, podium with microphone, and multimedia presentation.BusinessCommunications175

In fact, almost never. We will be thinking staff meeting; training for implementing a new process or procedure; a report to the board or council; representing your organization at a gathering. In the business situation, your presentation opportunities cover a lot of ground.

So what was it about that last presentation? How long did it take you to decide that you wanted to give the speaker your 100% attention, or whether to multi-task and get something else done while “listening”?  Probably within the first 30 seconds? Certainly within the first minute, for the typical listener. That’s where the speaker either “grabs you,” or…

So, after you have greeted your audience (step 1), what do you say next; how do you begin? How do you get their attention (step 2)? Here are one dozen thought-starters for your first 30 seconds:

1. Straight information. Here’s the typical speech-class introduction, and it still works just fine. Tell your audience what you are going to tell them in a straightforward manner, using the who-what-when-where-how-why formula for clarity, and to set expectations.

2. Quotation. Start with a grabber. Find a quotation that sums up succinctly what they may look forward to hearing about. You may quote a well-known and respected authority – or, if the point is well made, someone no one has ever heard of. In the latter case, it could be useful to describe his or her background to provide credibility for having made that statement.

3. New information, perhaps a startling fact your audience has never heard, or may not know.

4. Evoke emotion. This can be done with words – a story is particularly useful here – or with an action. The breaking of his dearly-beloved dead father’s precious gold watch onstage at the beginning of his speech was the hallmark of a particularly emotion-arousing evangelist of the 1920’s. And this sort of drama can be used even today – almost a century later. (You’ve already figured out, I’m sure, that the watches he used were the cheapest ones from the dime store, and that his father may not have had a watch at all, nor been particularly beloved!)

5. Start with an activity. Get your audience up out of their seats and have them do something. Or have them discuss a specific point with the person next to them. Or give them the tool you will be teaching them to use, and ask them to start doing something with it immediately. Get them physically involved right away in the first 30 seconds.

6. Tell a story.  A particularly good way to have people identify with the subject, or with you, immediately. Also an excellent technique for evoking emotion. Telling your own story can also be the perfect way to establish your credibility (step 3).

7. Self-interest. What good thing will happen for your audience members if…. People make decisions based on enlightened self-interest. If you use this technique, be certain you can deliver, and that what you are saying will work as promised. For example, “By using the new technique I will show you, you can cut the time it takes to install this ABC product by 50%!”

8. Statistics. Should also be used effectively to back up the startling fact, or new information beginning. Using numbers builds believability, because the point you are making is specific, and can be checked out (not that most people will very often!)

9.  Challenge the listener. Here are two examples: (1) Are you the one person in this room who…” or (2) “Today I am going to ask you to put your courage, your dedication, and every bit of skill you possess on the line. I am going to ask you, beg you, plead with you to….”

10. Start with a testimonial. It can be your own personal story, or that of another, demonstrating the good that will result if….

11. Refer to current news. And relate it to your “take-away point.”

12. A performance piece. Most often used to begin an entertainment presentation, this technique can be adapted to the business audience as well. Unlike the entertainer who sings a song, or reads a poem, Perhaps the speaker performs some physical activity with a piece of equipment being introduced to the sales team to demonstrate the equipment’s benefits, differences from the competition, and ease of use.

There you have them – a dozen ways to get started with your powerful presentation! How to tell them what you are going to tell them. Next week, how to write the body beautiful of your presentation: how to tell them.

To receive your Business Writing Tip of the Week automatically every week, please subscribe to our newsletter.

We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting. Thank you.