Preparing for a Presentation

Giving a presentation in front of colleagues strikes fear in the heart of many people. Psycom reports that glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, affects up to 75 percent of Americans. While some people only suffer from mild nervousness others can have full-on panic attacks when confronted with the prospect of giving a presentation. If you are somebody who gets a case of the butterflies at the thought of public speaking there are a few steps you can take to help the process go smoothly.  Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to make those butterflies flutter away.

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

Preparation is essential in order to have a great presentation. Luckily, if you are giving a presentation for your job, you probably already know your topic. However, something that’s just as important is knowing your audience. If you’re presenting to an unfamiliar group, try to find out who they are. This is important so that you can adjust your tone. Your tone will be different if you are presenting to a bunch of college kids than if you are speaking to your board of directors. The tone of your presentation may be more relaxed or more serious depending on your audience and topic. Now that you know how you want to approach the topic, it’s time to start thinking about how you will deliver your presentation.

People primarily take in information in two ways: audibly, and visually. Great presentations strike a balance between the two. You need to use both audio and visual components to help your audience retain more information. According to Entrepreneur, as of 2015, 77 percent of presentations and training workshops used blended audio and visual teaching styles to create a more efficient learning experience. When thinking about your approach, you should try to find out what the set-up of the room you are presenting in. Do they have a computer and a projector that you can use? Are you going to be limited to a dry erase board? The best-case scenario is one where you have a projector and, depending on the size of the audience, a microphone. If you have a projector, now you need to decide what platform you want to use to present your slides. Whether you are using PowerPoint, Prezi, or Google Slides, there are few things to think about when putting together your visual aids.

Tips for Your Slideshow

There are some common thoughts about how to organize information on a slideshow platform. One important thing to remember is that the different ways to organize your presentation aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Each strategy lays out a way to visually present information in a way that best retains the audience’s attention while also maintaining focus on what the speaker is saying.

The 10/20/30 Rule

Professional presenter Guy Kawasaki came up with this list of rules in order to streamline his presentations so both the speaker and the audience get the most out of their time.

  • Limit your slideshow to ten slides, in order to keep you on point.
  • Present for a maximum of twenty minutes, so the audience doesn’t lose interest.
  • Keep all text on your slides no smaller than a thirty-point font. You really don’t want your audience to wade through a wall of text.

You might also want to consider keeping your presentation to fifteen minutes and allow for a five-minute Q and A session at the end. This will make the audience feel like they have engaged in the presentation personally. Q and As will also leave them thinking more positively about it afterward.

The 5/5/5 or 1/6/6 or 7×7 Rule

There are a few common rules that many people follow when it comes to putting together a slideshow. The 5/5/5 rule dictates that you should have no more than 5 lines per slide and no more than five words per line. That last “five” suggests that you have no more than five text heavy slides in a row. The 1/6/6 and 7×7 rules suggest no more than six or seven lines of text per slide with a maximum of six or seven words per line of text. Basically, this reaffirms the idea that you do not want your slides loaded heavily with words. Slides are in place to reinforce what the speaker says, not to do the informational heavy lifting for the speaker.

The Power of Three

The third key thing to remember is to use groups of three when listing sets of information or examples. Sources of Insight explains that the power of three is a strong way to engage an audience on a psychological level. According to the article, people love lists of three because they keep you and the audience on the same page. If you use a list of three the audience knows where you are in the list and how much longer they need to engage on a subconscious level. It can be helpful to signal your audience by using sentences like, “here are three things that I am going to tell you,” in order to give the power of three even more power.

Pictures and Videos

Using pictures and videos is encouraged during a presentation for a few reasons. Video and pictures help visual learners retain information better. One great reason to use them is that they help break up long-winded orations and walls of text in a slideshow. Pictures and video work to help the audience shift gears during transitions as well. Videos can also give a speaker a break to regroup and focus on the next point they want to make.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Now that you have your slides all set and ready to go, your next step is to practice, practice, practice. You want to avoid rote memorization and practice using notes instead of a speech written out word-for-word. Otherwise, you run the risk of coming off as stiff or robotic. Instead, set up in a space that is reminiscent of the actual space where you will be presenting. This will help you remain comfortable because you will have a feeling of familiarity with your surroundings. Make sure to time your practice runs to make sure you don’t go too long. It’s also essential to practice in front of people who will give you honest feedback. Rehearse your presentation until you feel comfortable. While you practice tweak and cut material as you find out what works and what doesn’t. 

If you follow these steps your presentation will be a breeze, especially as your confidence grows. The next thing you know, you’ll be jumping at the chance to give a killer presentation.

What is Oral Communication?

Oral communication can be a high-pressure way to communicate. Unlike written communication, where you have a chance to revise, you have one shot to get your message across. Oral communication has been the primary way we communicate on a day-to-day basis for millions of years according to PLOS ONE. If you can do it well, in many cases, success follows. If you do it poorly you can find yourself in a less-than-convenient situation. Let’s take a look at what exactly oral communication is and why it’s important at work, with friends, and family. 

What is Oral Communication?

Oral communication is the ability to transmit ideas from your brain to either one person or a group of people. Good use of verbal skills means presenting an idea clearly while each thought is articulated in a cohesive manner. It has everything to do with the language that we choose to use. It’s also important to know who your audience is and address them in a way that they comprehend and understand. Your tone is also important as a confident tone can go far when you are expressing an idea as it can help you sound more credible. Good verbal communication often relies on non-verbal cues. These cues, like hand gestures or a raised brow, might put emphasis on a point, show how you feel about what you are saying, and provide insight about the seriousness of a situation. Another important aspect to think about is that good verbal skills go hand-in-hand with excellent listening skills. When used together it becomes much easier to navigate day-to-day encounters at work and in your personal life.

Oral Communication at Work

Being able to present yourself as well as your ideas is important before you even start a job. In fact, the National Association for Colleges and Employers did a study which found that verbal communications skills were the biggest priority when making a new hire. This is probably related to the fact that the ability to work within a team is the second most important quality. According to Medium, we now spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our families. So being able to communicate well with them is essential. The ability to convey ideas to your co-workers helps the team accomplish a task much more efficiently. It can also help to avoid the negativity and unproductiveness that comes when people aren’t getting along.

The ability to communicate ideas to colleagues or a board of directors in presentations is also important. This can help make you sound more expert when presenting as well as helps you look more professional. Being able to cooperate with other people, present your ideas clearly, and the ability to listen and respond to other people’s ideas will go a long way to help you enjoy your work and help set you down a successful career path.

Oral Communication with Friends

Human beings are social creatures. Studies have shown that people who go out of their way to have a social life are happier in the long term, according to Psychology Today. Oral communication is the cornerstone of social interaction. Doing more to engage others leads to the feeling of being more socially connected, which in turn makes us happier. A key part of making new friends is the ability to ask good questions. This requires active listening (an important part of oral communication) so that you can learn about the other person and get to know someone better. In turn, being able to talk about yourself so that they can get to know you is also important. Someone with good verbal skills will be able to do this in a friendly way that isn’t braggadocious or cocky. Being able to have a balanced conversation, especially when you first meet someone, is a good way to make a new friend.

Of course, oral communication is also important when talking to old friends. Sharing things about yourself, from the deeply personal to the mundane, can lead to less stress in life. Happify reports that people who have substantive conversations with friends are happier than those who only have small talk. So, don’t be afraid to go deep when having a conversation with a friend about what’s going on in your life.

Oral Communication with Family

Open communication among family members helps create strong family bonds that last a lifetime. It’s important to be able to sit down and communicate things like what’s going on in everyone’s life, without judgment, while finding a way to encourage each other. An article published by Virginia Tech reports that families utilize two different kinds of communication. One is clear communication where the family members are open and direct. The other is masked which is when communication is muddied and vague. Family members tend to mask how they feel. This happens when they think they will be met with disapproval or are unhappy with another family member. Masking how you feel might get someone out of an uncomfortable situation in the short term. However, being open and honest about feelings strengthens family bonds in the long term. The same article goes on to say that couples who rate their communication skills highly have happier marriages.

If family members feel unheard, it could help to set some time aside for a family meeting. You can also make it a point to sit down and eat dinner together. Speaking to each other and asking questions about what’s going in each other’s lives with an open mind is what family communication is all about.

Oral communication is important in all aspects of daily life. It is the easiest way to let the people around you know who you are–professionally and socially. By being direct and honest while maintaining an open and positive attitude you are telling the world that you are the type of person who can be trusted with everything from a presentation to the board of directors to helping a family member or friend through a difficult situation. Learning to listen to others and responding in a genuine way is what makes you a good communicator.

Volunteerism in the NPO Field

Non-profit organizations have become integral to communities around the world. Most importantly, each of these organization has a backbone made up of volunteers. To put it bluntly, NPOs would not exist without the hard work, time, and effort put in by each of these volunteers. In the spirit of gratitude, we want to take a moment to reflect on how volunteers impact nonprofits every day and why we should thank those volunteers every chance we get.

The Value of Volunteering

NPOs contributed nearly a trillion dollars to the US economy in 2015. As of 2016, there are over 1.5 million nonprofits operating in the United States, according to the Center of Charitable Statistics. While it’s nearly impossible to quantify the value of each volunteer,  start with the fact that for every hour a volunteer works for an NPO, that organization saves $24, according to Grantspace. In 2018 77.4 million Americans volunteered for a staggering 6.9 billion hours as reported by the Corporation for National and Community Service–a real boon to NPOs. It’s clear that volunteering has a massive impact on the US economy. However, what’s more important is the impact that they have on the communities they nurture.

Volunteering Takes Courage and Sacrifice

Nonprofits span many fields of charitable work. They help keep our environment clean and support the arts in communities across the country. They work tirelessly to improve the lives of the disenfranchised. Volunteers do everything from walking door-to-door collecting donations to stuffing envelopes, to sitting on the board of directors of the non-profit. No matter the position or job each person performs, the fact that they show up at all that really gets to the bottom of why we should all feel grateful for volunteers. At a time when the prominence of social media makes it easy to become insular and only look within; volunteers look beyond themselves in order to help the world. Obviously, volunteers show selflessness in their willingness to help but in many ways, they also show courage. It’s not always easy to put yourself out there and say, “How can I help?” Another word that comes to mind when thinking about volunteerism is sacrifice. People in the US are working more hours than ever which means time with friends and family is a priceless commodity. Nonetheless, many volunteers sacrifice this time for the greater good.

We Owe Volunteers Thanks 

Volunteers touch, in some way or another, the vast majority of the world. As a non-profit ourselves, Alpha Kappa Psi knows that there are so many reasons to say thank you. You are the reason that non-profit organizations work. If you know someone who volunteers take a moment to show some gratitude to them for their work. If you are one of the many people who take time out your life to volunteer, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You helping to make the world a better place.

Open Letter from a Graduate

To those who have helped me succeed,

Graduation is a great time for reflection on the past four (or even five) years of a college student’s life. During my time in college, I’ve encountered so many helpful people and programs that made this experience easier and more enlightening. Whether you’re reading this as a fellow upcoming grad or a fresh-faced freshman (I worked on that pun for a while), let this open letter be a guide for expressing gratitude to all the ways you’ve received assistance and support along the way.

Your professors are more than just teachers. Sure, they may have guided you through writing classes or helped you to pass chemistry exams, but they’re also resources for life. My professors helped to instill in me the importance of hard work and pushing through difficult lessons. They worked patiently to make sure I understood more than just the lesson plan. How can you show them gratitude for all they’ve done? One great way is to put effort and time into course evaluations. These evaluations are often extremely important for professors, especially those new to the job. Make sure to highlight specific ways the professor helped you or stood out.

Another important group that deserves to be thanked is your family. Perhaps they provided financial support for you, in the form of tuition or room and board. But even if you paid for your own education out of pocket or through scholarships, it’s a safe bet that they were still rooting for you the whole way. Focusing on your studies is, of course, an excellent way to demonstrate your gratitude, but making sure to simply tell them the many ways they encouraged you will go a long way.

College is also a time for establishing and growing the connections you’ll have for a lifetime. Your high school friends are always going to be important, but the folks you met in the dorms, libraries, class, and off-campus living will often be people you know well into adulthood. A study performed by Purdue University found that friends made during college are often long-term, even when a distance is between them. Because people tend to move after college for jobs or relationships, I suggest you take time to let them know how important they are before graduation is over. Throw a party, cook them dinner, or just make plans to hang out more often. Trust me – the best times of my college career were spent with hanging out with buddies, even if weren’t doing much at all.

We often think of colleges as being populated by students and professors. However, there are plenty of working-class folks that help to brighten your college experience. There are custodial staff, maintenance workers, dorm employees, and food court workers that would heartily appreciate your thanks. These are people who may earn the minimum wage or not receive benefits, and who still work hard to keep the spaces around you comfortable.  A card to workers in your dorm or building employees could be a great way to not only say thanks but to establish a new friendship.

Finally, you owe yourself a great deal of gratitude. Whether you’re planning on continuing your studies at a graduate level or heading off into the brave unknown of the working world, you made it through a four-year degree! All those late-night cram sessions, hours spent in the computer lab, or sprints across campus to get to class on time have finally paid off. It can feel bewildering or overwhelming, but if you’re ever struggling to make it through college, it’s always helpful to sit down and make a list of all the things you have to be grateful for in college. Congratulations, wherever you are in your college career. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to try to not cry as I walk across the stage at graduation. Dang, too late!

All the best,

Alpha Kappa Psi

Gratitude vs Gratification

When something makes us feel good, we want more of it. From the late-night snack of a pint of ice cream to the planned week of vacation, we want to feel good. And we usually want it right away! Two of the main ways that we have of feeling good right away are the feelings of gratitude and gratification.

They can both be addicting, but the difference between them is like “the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning” as Mark Twain once said. One makes an earthshaking difference and the other creates a fairy twinkle that we all chase from time to time.

That may be a little exaggerated. Let’s look at some hard definitions and see how gratitude vs. gratification actually plays out in the world that we live in today.

The Definitions

Simply put, gratitude is the good feeling we get or the expressions of appreciation that we make when something good happens to us. Most of the time, when we feel thankful, we feel good. It’s not that complicated.

Webster’s dictionary states that it is a “state of being thankful.” Think of the joy that a small child experiences when they get something that they have been wanting for a long time, the look on a loved one’s face when a crisis is averted, or the quiet peace radiating from a completely contented couple in love. In most cases, Psychology Today states that gratitude wants to be shared–you want other people to be just as happy as you are

On the other side of the coin, the state of being gratified is “a source of satisfaction or pleasure.” Remember the feeling as you get a second helping of your favorite dessert? How about the look on a teenager’s face when they level up in their video game of choice? Gratification wants more and more, particularly when you are able to have the feeling extended immediately. This leads to instant gratification, which, as stated by Positive Psychology, can become a real problem.

It’s important to realize that gratification in and of itself is not bad

Practically Speaking

What does this look like in the workplace and at home? Examples abound of both of these happiness generators in action. You may have noticed that someone really likes to fill the printer at work or deeply enjoys watching the coffee brew. These are examples of instant gratification.

At home, similar patterns can play out. Coming home to a clean home that your significant other has just gotten ready for you can spark a large amount of gratitude. When shared between both the cleaner and the one who came home, the evening could be full of happiness and peace.

On the other hand, instant gratification can take the form of a fun night out, an extra dessert, a spontaneous trip and much more. Other forms of gratification include buying a new dress or suit, splurging on something that you’ve been saving up for and so on and so forth.

Think of the days that nothing seems to get done. Sometimes, gratification (in the form of social media, longer lunches, and corridor chatter) gets in the way of getting things done. How about the coworker who loves to bring in tasty homemade goodies to share? They want to please you and themselves, but it is best? Sometimes, it can be trying if you’re on a diet and they insist that you take some of their goodies.

It’s a balancing act that can feel equivalent to walking (and falling) off a tightrope. How can you keep everything together?

The Balance

At the end of the day, gratitude and gratification should not be at war with each other. Rather, they should be balanced to suit you and your individual lifestyle. Sometimes that will lean one way and sometimes it will lean the other way.

The important thing to remember is that gratitude is internal and gratification is external. You need both in order to have the richest experience available to you. After all, both gratitude and gratification are about maximizing your happiness and the happiness of those about you. This is a very good thing indeed.