Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Public Speaking Worries – Handling Questions & Answers

One expectation frightens people preparing for a public presentation above all others. The fear is, "Even if I master the material someone will ask me a question and I will look stupid." Here is everything you need to know about handling Q& A. Keep these tips in mind and you can check that fear off your list.

1. Questions are your Friends. When giving a presentation It is extremely important to know what your audience is thinking. If you aren’t getting any feedback from them while you are talking, you have no idea how the information is being received. Questions let you know if you are moving too fast or conversely too slowly. A question informs you if you are clearly expressing your ideas. Rather than avoiding questions, try seeking them.

2. Body Language. There are two actions you can take to encourage questions. The first is physical. Stand still and raise your hand (like you had to do in elementary school). Secondly ask, "What are you questions?" The appropriate verbiage is "what," not "are there any" questions? The first implies you know the audience has questions and simply asks them to express them. The second calls in to doubt whether any questions exist.

3. Prime the Pump. It may surprise you to learn that people are hesitant to ask questions. The audience members do not want to appear "dumb" by asking an inappropriate question. You can help them get started by asking yourself a question and then answering it. You might say, "At this point I am often asked why…?" You then answer your own question. Next you say to the group, "Who has the next question?" This technique makes it easier for people in the audience to ask their questions.

4. I Don’t Know, But. When (not if) you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, simply, honestly reply – "I don’t know." This is always the correct response when asked for information you do not have. Remember that fear of looking stupid, I mentioned at the beginning of this article? The absolute best way to look stupid is to fake an answer. The important tag follows "I don’t know" and that is "But I will find out and give the information to you at (specific time)." At a press conference the President has to know the answer to every single question they are asked. He does not have the luxury you have of saying, "I don’t know." You do have the ability and when expressed calmly you will appear articulate and professional.

5. Hostile Questions. Now that we’ve gotten this far I need to let you know sometimes people will try and make you look foolish with a question. The agenda in their question may not be readily apparent to you. When you sense hostility, here are two things you can do. First Do not respond in kind. When you are verbally attacked you must never retaliate. Since I mentioned elementary school in Tip 2, let’s go back to the playground at recess. When two boys got in a tussle, what did the rest of the children do? On the playgrounds of my childhood everybody would step back. Someone might yell, "Fight!" But only the teachers would step in to break it up. If during your presentation someone "attacks," you must never allow it to seem like a fight. Do NOT drop the discussion to their level. Second Remain calm and Bridge. Take a deep breath. If you need time repeat the question. Acknowledge any truth in the question and immediately bridge to talk about something positive. Let me give you an example. I have a product and I’m making a sales presentation to a potential client. Someone asks, "Didn’t you lose the contract with XYZ company because of your pathetic customer service?" Ouch! Here is the correct response, "Yes we did lose XYZ as a result of customer service issues. (acknowledge truth) As a result of examining why, we learned our customer service reps did not have access to important technical information. (Bridge) We invested $$$ to upgrade our phone system and integrate informational databases. Last year we received the J.D. Powers award for Outstanding Customer Service.

By practicing these tips you will learn the value of questions from your audience. Your skill as a public speaker will grow, along with your confidence.

By: Rick Highsmith

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Your reception area: How office furniture impacts on the presentation of your business

We all know the importance of office furniture when deciding what image you want your business to project to visiting clients. Even the style can make a difference, formal and traditional or modern and funky? So where does it have the biggest impact? Possibly the most important part of your premises is your reception area; this is what your clients see first.

So what are the most important things in your reception area?

A nice big reception desk, there are a few reasons why it should be bigger than the other desks in your office. You want your visitors to know where to go for help when they arrive and a big, bold reception desk will give them that message loud and clear. Your receptionist will also most likely be expected to multitask quite often in the role and plenty of space can help them to stay organised. Reception desks come in several different shapes; an L shape is often popular as it allows the receptionist to separate their roles efficiently, using one section for working at the computer and paperwork, while keeping the more visible section clear and ready for greeting your visitors.

The receptionists chair needs to be a good one, not least because it needs to be comfortable for long periods of time. More than anyone in your business, you need your receptionist to be constantly at their post in case of unexpected visitors. A good, comfy chair will help to make that more likely. Consider back support as well as the seat itself.

Visitors seating areas are not present in all office reception areas. It is a considerate touch if visitors will be waiting in reception to give them somewhere to sit. Be creative here and make sure you chose chairs that reflect the nature of your business. What suits your business best? Remember think modern and funky if that suits you business, but perhaps not for an accountancy firm! Dont let yourself down in this area, tired and broken chairs are hardly going to give your visitors the impression you want.

Making the right office furniture choices will pay dividends when clients visit. Enjoy yourself, how often do you get to have a day out of the office shopping!

By: Sarah Haines