Who are you really?

I had to write a short bio for an evaluation conference that I’m presenting at in September. I’m actually only speaking for five minutes, but it was on my bucket list to speak at a conference one day, so at least I’ll be able to tick that one off.

I did some research about how to write a bio and the recommendation was to make it relevant to the audience and make it short. This seemed like good advice. I’m a big fan of simplicity, so I generally like things to be short and to the point.

The audience will be other evaluators and my short presentation is about building evaluation capacity when you aren’t an expert, so I decided to just write a couple of sentences about my role and the fact that I like to work collaboratively with people.

I was pretty happy with my efforts until I read some of the other presenters’ bios. By comparison, mine was way too short and simple, so I panicked.

They were mostly written in the third person and there were a whole lot of qualifications being cited all over the joint. The other presenters sound very, very impressive!

You may find it amusing that I panicked given that the title of my talk is “Getting over the imposter syndrome”.

It reminded me of a meeting I went to when I was teaching at the local TAFE. It was the start of semester so we did a ‘go-around’ so that everyone could introduce themselves. I sat there getting more and more anxious (I hate go-arounds) whilst my colleagues cited their extensive academic qualifications and their very important titles. When it came to my turn I said “my name’s Margaret Moon and I’m a person”. I wasn’t trying to be especially funny or rude. It just seemed that this was the best way I could think of to describe myself. There seemed to be a lack of humanity and perhaps humility, in the room.

Back to my bio. In the end I did add a few details. I didn’t want to sound too pompous but I thought that people might want to know a little bit about my background and what kinds of things I find interesting. That list could be quite long if I got carried away, so I just talked about how much I enjoy solving problems and working alongside people. I didn’t talk about how much I love reading and drinking nice wine! That might be a discussion for another time.

I’m hoping that if I sound friendly enough some of the other attendees might come up and say hello. That would be nice.

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!

How to win friends and influence people

How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday was the birthday of Dale Carnegie who was born in Missouri in 1888. He came from a very poor family but became famous as a writer and lecturer, motivational speaker and marketing guru. I guess you could say he was the father of public speaking (if you don’t count Aristotle of course). Let’s just say that he was the first person to have the idea that salesmen (and I use that term deliberately) needed to have more than a product to sell in order to make a sale. They need to be able to convince people that they couldn’t do without the product they were selling. They needed to be influential.

His best known book was “How to win friends and influence people”. It was first published in 1936 and is still in print. Carnegie’s ideas probably seem very commonplace today but his ideas were radical in the early 20th century. One of his key ideas is that it is possible to change people’s behaviour towards you, by changing the way you react to them. He thought that you could influence people by getting them to like you. The more they like you, the more likely they are to respond to you in a positive way and this in turn will lead to them being more likely to buy what you are selling or agree with what you are saying.

To be honest, I have always found these ideas to be a little creepy. I always believed that people should be genuinely likeable and not just for the purpose of influencing me, or selling me something. But it’s true that I am more likely to listen to the ideas of someone I like. It puts me in a more open frame of mind.

If you are writing presentations, reports or even just emails to your colleagues you probably want people to do something, or feel something, otherwise why would you be taking the trouble to write anything? And if you want people to do or feel something, then it helps if you are likeable.

So can you make yourself more likeable and still retain your integrity? Yes, I think so.

One easy thing you can do is to adopt a positive attitude about life. People quite like to be around positive people. I don’t mean that you should pretend to be happy if you are feeling really down, but adopting a positive attitude not only makes people around you want to talk to you, it also makes you feel more positive about life. This is the ‘fake it till you make it’ scenario and the science says that this really works. Watch this TED talk to find out how.

Secondly, spend as much time as you can listening to other people. Giving people your attention and listening closely to what they say is both respectful and flattering. I am not always very good at listening (coming from a family of champion interrupters as I do) but I do find it very effective when I can manage it.

If you agree/disagree or have any other tips for influencing people without selling your soul, please comment. I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll leave you with a nice quote from Mr Carnegie…

Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are or what you own, it depends solely on what you think.

Dale Carnegie 1888 -1955

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.