Better Evaluation

I’ve just had an article published on the Better Evaluation website. You can read it here. I wanted to share some ideas about not being an expert while also encouraging people to think about evaluation as something useful and ‘doable’ rather than something that’s too complicated or too hard.

I’m also going to be doing a short presentation on the same topic at the Australian Evaluation Society conference in September. I’m excited but also a little nervous about that. Fortunately, it’s just a five minute “ignite” presentation. Just 20 slides and then on to the next person.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Finding focus

I’m guessing that most of us have spent at least a little bit of time recently deciding what we will focus on, and what skills or interests we want to develop in 2013.

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest problems is that I am interested in way too many things, to the point where I flit from topic to topic always hungry for new and interesting ideas but not really digesting or absorbing very much. And while this is very entertaining, it results in knowing a little bit about a lot of subjects, but not being an expert on anything in particular. This is not a good thing in the world of business (so they say), which favours those with marketable expertise.

So this year I am going to focus on being more focussed.

This means finishing one book before starting another. (Well maybe I can have one fiction and one non-fiction on the go, but not five at once).

Attention

Attention (Photo credit: aforgrave)

It also means spending more time writing about practical ways that you can craft your material so that your messages are clear.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll only talk about one thing. As far as I am concerned, there are many elements to clarity. Regardless of whether you are writing a report, creating a presentation or designing a website the principles and elements are the same.

You need:

  • Clear concise writing that makes sense to the reader
  • Consistent and logical ordering of your content
  • Plenty of white space so that your text is legible and doesn’t overwhelm people
  • Graphs, charts and illustrations that help people to understand your message
  • An understanding of how people learn and how they make sense of information

But above all, you need to KNOW what it is you are trying to say. Working this out is by far the most important thing you need to do and is the place where you should start.

So my plan for the coming year is to focus on writing helpful, inspiring and practical blog posts. What are you going to focus on? Are there skills that you want to develop and can I help you?

 

 

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Should you worry about personal branding?

I overheard a colleague being very dismissive about a personal branding course that is being offered to staff at my workplace. The aim of the course is to get people to think about their skills and the way that they present themselves to prospective employers. Whilst it’s not my intention to start giving advice about employment issues, I do think that the topic of branding is relevant to presenting.

Developing your personal brand is about being consistent and credible and these are two things that are really important when you are giving a presentation.

When you are delivering a presentation, you really do want people to take you seriously. This means that your messages must be clear, concise and coherent and you also need to look and sound confident about your topic. This is not easy for those of us who get a little bit nervous when speaking in front of a group. My advice is to rehearse your presentation in front of a friend or colleague that you trust. If you really can’t bear the idea of rehearsing in front of other people, do it at home in front of your dog or budgie. Not only will this give you more familiarity with your material, it will give you an idea of how long your talk will go for and if it flows well. You don’t need to be word perfect. In fact this can often make you sound stilted and over-rehearsed.

Your credibility will be enhanced if you can manage to look reasonably comfortable (my advice is to fake it ’til you make it). Don’t make your audience feel nervous on your behalf. You want them to relax and be interested in your message, so you need to convey the idea that you are in control. There are lots of books about presenting that you can check out, but my best advice is to:

1. Craft clear and concise messages.

2. Be very familiar with your content.

3. Rehearse (but don’t over rehearse).

4. Get to the venue as early as you can.

5. Be enthusiastic about your topic.

6. Relax, breathe and smile – once you get going you’ll be fine, so let your personality shine through.