Communication Skills

A Ranting Hub for Improving Communication Skills

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Leave a comment

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.


Leave a comment

The 10 Worst Communication Mistakes For Your Career

 

“How do you signal to the world you’re leadership material?” asks Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) in New York. “You don’t get a shot at being a leader unless you signal right.”

According to a new year-long study of over 4,000 college-educated professionals and 268 senior executives, conducted by CTI and in partnership with Marie Claire magazine, you must be viewed as a leader in order to get promoted into top jobs. That takes “executive presence,” which is defined as having gravitas, excellent communication skills and a polished appearance.

These skills are required, but that doesn’t mean you rack up bonus points for having them. Instead, you get demerits for your mistakes, as superiors silently cross you off their good lists. So what are the pitfalls to avoid? The study uncovered the 10 worst communication mistakes that will instantly derail your promotion hopes.

No. 1: Racially Biased Comments

Of executives surveyed, 72% said racially biased comments are a major blunder for men and 70% said the same for women. This is the top offense for good reason. These remarks easily offend or insult, reflect poor judgment and reveal low emotional intelligence, according to the researchers.

No. 2: Off-Color Jokes

This second worst communication mistake is similar to the first. Telling inappropriate jokes makes people uncomfortable, revealing an inability to properly read the audience and environment. On the flip side, 61% of executives believe being able to sense the mood of others and effectively adjust your language, tone and content is one of the top skills required to advance.

See Also: Top 6 Communication Skills That Will Get You Promoted

No. 3: Crying

Rightly or wrongly, workplace tears do not communicate leadership potential—especially if you’re a man. While 59% of executives say crying makes a woman look bad, 63% believe it’s a top mistake for men. “You have to be able to control your emotions,” a male banking executive told researchers.

No. 4: Sounding Uneducated

Executives say it’s important for leaders to portray gravitas, worldliness and intellectual horsepower. Thus, sounding uneducated will immediately undermine your chances of ascension. One IT manager told the researchers, “I’ve been with bosses who look like they would be competent, and then they blow it when they open their mouths and sound like complete buffoons.”

No. 5: Swearing

Cursing is a gender-neutral faux pas. It’s generally considered unprofessional and unfitting of a leader. Interestingly, it’s also a major mistake online, which in itself is a communication minefield. Those polled said the top three online communications blunders are posting unflattering messages about colleagues, posting unprofessional photos and being too personal.


1 Comment

Writing Skills: Getting Your Written Message Across Clearly

Improve your writing skills
with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.

A colleague has just sent you an email relating to a meeting you’re having in one hour’s time. The email is supposed to contain key information that you need to present, as part of the business case for an important project.

But there’s a problem: The email is so badly written that you can’t find the data you need. There are misspellings and incomplete sentences, and the paragraphs are so long and confusing that it takes you three times more than it should to find the information you want.

As a result, you’re under-prepared for the meeting, and it doesn’t go as well as you want it to.

Have you ever faced a situation similar to this? In today’s information overload world, it’s vital to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively. People don’t have time to read book-length emails, and they don’t have the patience to scour badly-constructed emails for “buried” points.

The better your writing skills are, the better the impression you’ll make on the people around you – including your boss, your colleagues, and your clients. You never know how far these good impressions will take you!

In this article, we’ll look at how you can improve your writing skills and avoid common mistakes.
Audience and Format

The first step to writing clearly is choosing the appropriate format. Do you need to send an informal email? Write a detailed report? Create advertising copy? Or write a formal letter?

The format, as well as your audience, will define your “writing voice” – that is, how formal or relaxed the tone should be. For instance, if you write an email to a prospective client, should it have the same tone as an email to a friend?

Definitely not.

Start by identifying who will read your message. Is it targeted at senior managers, the entire human resources team, or a small group of engineers? With everything you write, your readers, or recipients, should define your tone as well as aspects of the content.
Composition and Style

Once you know what you’re writing, and for whom you’re writing, you actually have to start writing.

A blank, white computer screen is often intimidating. And it’s easy to get stuck because you don’t know how to start. Try these tips for composing and styling your document:

Start with your audience – Remember, your readers may know nothing about what you’re telling them. What do they need to know first?
Create an outline – This is especially helpful if you’re writing a longer document such as a report, presentation, or speech. Outlines help you identify which steps to take in which order, and they help you break the task up into manageable pieces of information.
Use AIDA – If you’re writing something that must inspire action in the reader, follow the Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) formula. These four steps can help guide you through the writing process.
Try some empathy – For instance, if you’re writing a sales letter for prospective clients, why should they care about your product or sales pitch? What’s the benefit for them? Remember your audience’s needs at all times.
Use the Rhetorical Triangle – If you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, make sure that you communicate why people should listen to you, pitch your message in a way that engages your audience, and present information rationally and coherently. Our article on the Rhetorical Triangle can help you make your case in the most effective way.
Identify your main theme – If you’re having trouble defining the main theme of your message, pretend that you have 15 seconds to explain your position. What do you say? This is likely to be your main theme.
Use simple language – Unless you’re writing a scholarly article, it’s usually best to use simple, direct language. Don’t use long words just to impress people.

Structure

Your document should be as “reader friendly” as possible. Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, and numbering whenever possible to break up the text.

After all, what’s easier to read – a page full of long paragraphs, or a page that’s broken up into short paragraphs, with section headings and bullet points? A document that’s easy to scan will get read more often than a document with long, dense paragraphs of text.

Headers should grab the reader’s attention. Using questions is often a good idea, especially in advertising copy or reports, because questions help keep the reader engaged and curious.

In emails and proposals, use short, factual headings and subheadings, like the ones in this article.

Adding graphs and charts is also a smart way to break up your text. These visual aids not only keep the reader’s eye engaged, but they can communicate important information much more quickly than text.
Grammatical Errors

You probably don’t need us to tell you that errors in your document will make you look unprofessional. It’s essential to learn grammar properly, and to avoid common mistakes that your spell checker won’t find.

Here are some examples of commonly misused words:

Affect/effect
“Affect” is a verb meaning to influence. (Example: The economic forecast will affect our projected income.)
“Effect” is a noun meaning the result or outcome. (Example: What is the effect of the proposal?)
Then/than
“Then” is typically an adverb indicating a sequence in time. (Example: We went to dinner, then we saw a movie.)
“Than” is a conjunction used for comparison. (Example: The dinner was more expensive than the movie.)
Your/you’re
“Your” is a possessive. (Example: Is that your file?)
“You’re” is a contraction of “you are.” (Example: You’re the new manager.)
Note: Also watch out for other common homophones (words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings) – such as their/they’re/there, to/too/two, and so on.
Its/it’s
“Its” is a possessive. (Example: Is that its motor?)
“It’s” is a contraction of “It is.” (Example: It’s often that heavy.) (Yes, it is this way around!)
Company’s/companies (and other possessives versus plurals)
“Company’s” indicates possession. (Example: The company’s trucks hadn’t been maintained properly.)
“Companies” is plural. (Example: The companies in this industry are suffering.)

To learn more about commonly misused words, misused apostrophes, and other grammatical errors, take our Bite-Sized Training session on Written Communication.

Tip:
Some of your readers – arguably an increasing number – won’t be perfect at spelling and grammar. They may not notice if you make these errors. But don’t use this as an excuse: there will usually be people, senior managers in particular, who WILL notice!

Because of this, everything you write should be of a quality that every reader will find acceptable.
Proofing

The enemy of good proofreading is speed. Many people rush through their documents, but this is how you miss mistakes. Follow these guidelines to check what you’ve written:

Proof your headers and subheaders – People often skip these and focus on the text alone. Just because headers are big and bold doesn’t mean they’re error free!
Read the document out loud – This forces you to go more slowly, so that you’re more likely to catch mistakes.
Use your finger to follow text as you read – This is another trick that helps you slow down.
Start at the end of your document – Proofread one sentence at a time, working your way from the end to the beginning. This helps you focus on errors, not on content.

Key Points

More than ever, it’s important to know how to communicate your point quickly and professionally. Many people spend a lot of time writing and reading, so the better you are at this form of communication, the more successful you’re likely to be.

Identify your audience before you start creating your document. And if you feel that there’s too much information to include, create an outline to help organize your thoughts. Learning grammatical and stylistic techniques will also help you write more clearly; and be sure to proof the final document. Like most things, the more you write, the better you’re going to be!


Leave a comment

An Interesting Article: How Engineers Can Improve Technical Writing

 

September 2012

 

Even though engineers are technical people, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are good technical writers.

“Technical writing involves two key competencies,” indicates Atul Mathur, a professional engineer and technical copywriter in Singapore. “The first is the ability to understand technical language; the second is being able to express that knowledge in a clear, concise, and coherent manner.”

Dan Jones, a professor of English at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, who offers technical writing workshops to engineering groups, doesn’t believe technical writing “or any kind of writing for that matter, comes naturally to anyone,” he says. “Some people are better writers than others, but their skills are typically acquired over a long period of time with much practice and hard work.”

Even so, engineers do have some advantages when it comes to technical communication. They are detail-oriented, bright, demanding, and not intimidated by levels of technicality. “They want to know how and why something works, but like students in other college majors, they face similar challenges in communicating this technical knowledge clearly and effectively,” says Jones.

Modular Writing

Since the Great Recession, every business is trying to do more with less. For engineers, this means training budgets have been slashed and they have to produce an increasing number of written documents themselves.

“These include trip reports, proposals, status reports, meeting minutes, reports documenting site visits, and lab experiments,” states Gary Blake, director of the Communication Workshop in Great Neck, NY, and author of The Elements of Technical Writing. “In my 25 years of teaching seminars in technical writing, I have met very few engineers who are comfortable with using simple language, organizing documents for the readers’ benefit, keeping sentences and paragraphs short, and getting to the point.”

One method of dealing with the increased volume of reporting is “modular writing.” Many companies are moving away from individually authored technical documents to team-authored modules of information.

“These modules—each reduced typically to single topics—are then reused in a wide variety of company documents,” says Jones. “One technique is Darwin Information Typing Architecture, or DITA. This modular writing, once successfully implemented, can save a company thousands of dollars in documentation costs.”

Sometimes engineers try to circumvent technical writing by misusing PowerPoint and other presentation software, overloading technical presentations with data instead of explaining what it means in clear and concise language.

“I just worked with a group of 30 engineers to help them make more effective technical presentations,” says Jones. “PowerPoint as a medium is designed for simplicity with, ideally, the individual slides serving as prompts for the speaker, not as handouts for the audience. But many technical professionals crowd far too much information on almost every slide. And, in many cases, various company protocols or practices require them to provide all of this information in this manner.”

Simplicity in Complexity

Engineers often find it difficult to communicate their technical knowledge to audiences that have less technical backgrounds. For example, engineers must write reports and convey the essential technical details for managers—often a tough challenge because many managers don’t understand the technology.

“The greatest issue is the inability to see simplicity in complexity,” says Mathur. “How can they strip away the complexity of a process or system and present it in a way that others can understand, with minimum effort? After all, technical writing is not just about language skills—it’s also about how we think.”

There is no substitute for training—one-on-one, webinar, seminar, or having instant access to a subject expert or mentor. A webinar has the advantage of being inexpensive and convenient. “A team or department of engineers take a 90-minute online class that reviews writing samples, gives writing exercises, answers questions, and offers future access to an instructor,” says Blake.

Technical communication is essential for career advancement for all technical professionals.

“Mastering the content of a discipline is, of course, important, but this subject expertise becomes much more valuable and marketable if you know how to communicate your subject expertise to a variety of audiences in numerous kinds of technical documents and technical presentations,” says Jones.

Mark Crawford is an independent writer.


Leave a comment

Some Useful Links

GENERAL COMMUNICATION
1. Effective Communication Skills http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FljoEitkIeM
2. How to communicate effectively http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqZQdr_hY7U
3. How to Improve English Communication Skills – 6 Secret Tips

NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION
4. Communication Skills Training: body language secrets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gaj3Xl9vasc
5. Nonverbal Communication Skills http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CL2npjSXMc
6. Nonverbal Communication – Tip #51

7. Communication Basics – Body Language

8. Power of Non Verbal Communications (You are the message)

9. Nonverbal Communication, Body Language Expert Jan Hargrave

10. History Channel Secrets of body language 720p http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW9ztSUGY_Q
11. Advanced Body Language and Nonverbal Communication Skills Training

12. Body Language Can Undermine Your Message—Expert Mark Bowden

13. The Power of Body Language – Obama Romney http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h_-X9hnYps

PRESENTATION SKILLS
14. How to Start a Speech http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w82a1FT5o88
15. Killer Presentation Skills http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whTwjG4ZIJg
16. Dealing with a Hostile Audience http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oWX1Q1dbiE
17. Presentation Opening Lines http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXqUWHgBrCE
18. How To Begin Your Presentation With A Strong Start http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztbTCIXvWr4
19. How to Start a Presentation Using an Attention Grabbing Question http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndrIvSw1xTc
20. Best presentation opening http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3vifO4dI1E
21. Become a Master Presenter! What do Master Presenters Do Differently? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIGT6benUww
22. 5 Tips For Delivering A Great Presentation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9E8yaFCX0Y
23. Top 10 Presentation Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUpI6ROwRAE
24. Make a Presentation Like Steve Jobs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHX-xnP_G5s
25. What to do with your hands when you’re presenting! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooOQQOQdhH8

26. How To Open Your Presentation Like A Professional In 6 Steps

27. HOW DO I START MY PRESENTATION http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XFexzhDHxQ
28. Five Basic Public Speaking Tips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AykYRO5d_lI
29. How to start a presentation with a quote http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1R-VCC1UnU
30. Sample Presentation: When you don’t know an answer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwAwldXDanw
31. How to avoid boring statistics in presentations

32. Overcoming Nerves When Giving a Presentation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbDipVRt5aE
33. How To End Your Presentation In A Memorable Way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGZXNW3aDOw
34. Overcome Fear of Public Speaking http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNtXE_auuRw
35. Learn To Speak: Public Speaking Training, Attitude Is Everything

36. Get Their Attention Every Time You Speak

37. Speaking Tips – Stop Worrying and Start Presenting!

38. The importance of Body Language in Presentations

39. Working With Your Audience and Handling Q&A

40. Effective Presentation Skills: Using Vocal Energy

41. Don’t read from your PowerPoint slides

42. Bill Gates Speech at Harvard

43. 5 Key Presentation Skills – Inspired from Steve Jobs

44. Presentation Skills – Learn from the Best

45. Presenting & Public Speaking Tips – How to improve skills & confidence

46. How to add video to a PowerPoint presentation

47. The Most Effective Use Of PowerPoint

48. Creating effective slides: Design, Construction, and Use in Science

49. How to Give an Awesome (PowerPoint) Presentation

50. PowerPoint 2007- How to insert a YouTube Video into PowerPoint.mp4

51. Make animations in Powerpoint 2007

52. PowerPoint 2010 – Adding Animations

53. PowerPoint 2007- How to insert a YouTube Video into PowerPoint.mp4

54. English Communication Skill part 1-1


Leave a comment

Self Learning Materials

Communication Skills

Engineers use communication skills to explain an idea, process, or technical design. They use written, oral, computers, graphics, and other engineering tools to communicate to other engineers and management.

Written communication includes technical writing of journal, texts, and other informational material. It includes specific, to-the-point details about a topic of mastery by the author. Other engineers use these texts for continued research and development because the knowledge gained by one engineer has been communicated to others.

Oral Communication includes the delivery of presentations, explaining a design or design process and many other details that improve meeting coordination and team development.

Graphical communication utilizes the visual senses and allows for the engineer to explain an idea without using detailed written reports and oral communication. Graphics is an extensive discipline that encompasses a large range of topics from rough preliminary sketches to detailed computer AutoCAD pictorials. Graphical and visual communication is crucial to all stages of the design process.

Self-Learning

Will be uploaded soon


Leave a comment

Assignments

Assignments

  List of Assignments

 

 

Assignment 1

 

 Differentiate between the Technical communication and General Communication by giving various examples .

 

Assignment: 2  

 

Make a ppt on how to give an effective presentation

 

Assignment 3

 

Discuss the various components of body-language and demonstrate them with the pictures of political leaders ..

Assignment 4  

 

Write a short essay using narrative and cause and effect method.

 

Assignment 5

 

The students will be asked to prepare a case study on effective/ineffective response due to faulty listening.

 

Assignment 6

 

.Write the description of a process of a technical topic explained/experimented in the technical lab. (100 words)

Assignment 7

 

Write a letter to the Sales Manager enquiring about the price list of scanners                    along with terms and conditions.

Assignment 8

 

Write a letter of reply to the Purchase Manager informing him about the price of different mdels of smart phones along with terms and conditions.

 

Assignment 9 & 10

 

The students will prepare a job application (of a fresh engineering    graduate) – the cover letter and the résumé.