Tips & Tricks: 5 Common Communication Mistakes to Avoid

August 8th, 2014

Effective communication is something that even professional communicators continually strive to achieve. Varying communication styles, time constraints, stress, social dynamics and everything else can get in the way of delivering or receiving a clear message. As industry professionals, we especially need to ensure that our strategic messages are understood and that we understand our clients’ requests. Here are some of the most common communications mistakes and how to avoid them according to a Public Relations Society of America webinar and yours truly (the MoPR team).

1. Not listening

Let’s be honest, we are all guilty of not listening. Whether it’s our own pride or a shiny distraction, the majority of miscommunications are due to one or more parties simply not listening.

Try: stop talking; treat each conversation as an opportunity to learn; assume positive intent; pay attention to body language; pause before asking questions; clarify the client’s message

 2. Not asking questions

How many times have you been given an assignment you’re unsure about yet you leave the meeting/office without asking clarifying questions? We’ve all been there.

Try: summarize the assignment and check for understanding; ask a probing follow-up question; work on the assignment a little then verify your progress with your manager to see if you’re on the right path

 3. Using tunnel vision

When we focus on one aspect of a situation, set our hearts on the “best” solution or get caught up in the tactics, we lose sight of the big picture which can cause team disagreements or missed opportunities.

Try: come up with multiple solutions (even after you think you’ve found the best one!) for each problem to open up your mind to all possibilities; sincerely ask for, listen to and consider ideas of others; write down the overarching goal and read it regularly; open your eyes to how your clients best communicate and look for ways you can be flexible with your communication style to meet theirs

 4. Not asking for feedback (or not accepting it!)

In professional settings we often shy away from asking where we stand because we’re uncomfortable with negative feedback. How will you know what your client is pleased with and what they want you to change if you don’t ask? Also, how can you expect to retain clients if you don’t accept or listen to their criticism?

Try: at every meeting ask, “what is working well?” and “how can we be better?”; don’t allow too much time in between feedback so both you and the client know what you should be working on; take notes of what you are expected to improve and use it as an opportunity to become more valuable to your client and your boss

 5. Not preparing yourself 

We all know that actions speak louder than words but often forget to put that advice into practice. When you communicate an important message the words need to be accompanied by confidence, eye contact, professional demeanor and obvious preparation or the message may be misconstrued.

Try: use your vocabulary, dress and mannerisms to communicate to others you are knowledgeable and professional; be aware of the body language; prepare for meetings to increase your confidence, respectability and validity in the eyes of others

 

Some of the advice above was featured in a PRSA webinar titled, “The Eight Most Common Mistakes Communicators Can’t Help But Make.” More training videos are available on the PRSA website for both members and nonmembers.

Tips and Tricks: Six Presentation Tactics to Rock Your Next Speech

July 21st, 2014

Whether you’re pitching your team’s ideas to win over potential clients, acting as the spokesperson for your client during a crisis or counseling a client preparing for a major speaking opportunity, excellent presentation skills will come in handy sooner or later. Here are some tips and tricks from a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) webinar and a couple of MoPR’s own to help you develop some killer presentation skills.

  1. Know your audience – Do some research to find out who will make up your audience. If you’re speaking at a conference, take a look at the attendee list to get an idea of what type of people will see your presentation and give some thought about how this information will impact the way you present. Should you utilize technical jargon, or keep your delivery fairly topical?
  2. Be yourself – Steve Jobs was a phenomenal presenter, but don’t try to be Steve Jobs. It’s perfectly fine to borrow presentation tactics from stellar public speakers, but be sure to develop your own style that you’re comfortable with and doesn’t appear forced to an audience.
  3. Have a strong opening – Audiences make judgments in a second and while you can’t control how someone will judge your personal appearance, you can start your presentation off with a bang. Don’t make your opening about yourself by rattling off your resume or qualifications, but try thinking of a memorable opening to grab your audience’s attention right off the bat.
  4. Tell a great story – Great presentations are all about great stories, which are one of the most effective communication strategies. Use a story to relate to your audience and humanize your presentation topic.
  5. Check in with your audience – Does your audience look bored? Are they completely lost? Be sure to assess how your audience is doing throughout your presentation. If you can, take questions throughout and make eye contact with audience members to gauge whether or not you need to switch up your approach.
  6. Reflect post presentation – Once you’ve finished your presentation, field audience questions and graciously accept your standing ovation (hopefully). It’s important to take a step back and look at both what you did well and what you could improve. Recording yourself is a great way to catch any nervous ticks or habits that you will want to be aware of, and also gives you a chance to watch yourself from the audience’s perspective.

What presentation tips and tricks would you add to this list?

Some of these pieces of advice were featured on a PRSA webinar titled, “11 Deadly Presentation Sins: A Path to Redemption for Public Speakers.” More training videos are available on the PRSA website for both members and nonmembers.

Mobile World Congress Survival Guide (for North Americans): Part II

February 20th, 2014

Over the next 5 days, Barcelona will transform itself into Mobile World City as 75,000 attendees, some bringing family and friends along, make their way to Mobile World Congress. Are you going to Mobile World Congress for the first time? If you are, the following tips may prove useful. Please read Part I of this series to learn how to prepare and protect your phone.


PART II: TRAVEL & MWC TOURISM

Traveling to Barcelona in winter can cause some snafus. If you have a non-stop flight to Barcelona, this next section won’t impact you as much. But in terms of best practices, it’s probably worth a read. This winter a record number of flights have been delayed or cancelled. If your trip to Barcelona includes a connection, better be prepared.

Bring a Spare

Pack at least one spare outfit in your carry-on bag. The vast majority of Mobile World Congress attendees are checking bags. When winter weather creates travel chaos, the likelihood your bags get lost in the shuffle increases. If your bags don’t arrive when you do, it can take up to 2 days for you to get them back. Some airlines will give you a lost luggage emergency kit that includes toothpaste, a toothbrush, a disposable razor and, if you’re lucky, a t-shirt. It’s better if you have your own clean clothes with you in case you’re waiting 2 days for your suitcase.

Travel Insurance

Traveling to Barcelona through a connection in winter makes travel insurance a good investment. Most policies are going to be less than $50 and you can get it through your airline or possibly your credit card. Some of the online travel agencies also offer travel insurance. If your bags get lost or you’re forced to spend the night at an airport, travel insurance will cover a lot, if not all of your costs.

Shopping

If you your bags are lost, there are two important things to know about shopping for clothes in Barcelona. First, Spanish people seem to be a lot smaller than Americans. If you need L, XL or larger sized clothes, your best bet is a department store. El Corte Inglés in Plaza de Cataluña is a great option.

Second, don’t plan to do any shopping on Sunday. The majority of stores and restaurants are closed on Sundays. McDonald’s is closed on Sundays. You’ll find souvenir shops and some stores in the very touristy areas open, but very little else. Don’t plan to shop on Sunday.

Getting Around

The best way to get around Barcelona is using its fantastic Metro de Barcelona subway system. It is truly the best way to get quickly around the city, and probably the easiest way for you to get from where you’re staying to Mobile World Congress and back. For 10,30€ you can get a T-10 ticket which gives you 10 rides on the Metro. That’s a better option than the 7,60€ one (calendar) day ticket . Every map of Barcelona will indicate the Metro stations with a red diamond symbol.

For point to point transportation, taxis are as available in Barcelona as they are in New York City. Whereas most people in Barcelona who interface with tourists and visitors speak English, it’s a rarer convenience from taxi drivers. It’s best to know the name and address of your destination in Spanish or Catalan, or have it written down to show the driver.

Dining Out

The food in Barcelona is spectacular. Be prepared to see, if not eat, a lot of ham. Spanish cured ham, Jamón ibérico, is omnipresent throughout Barcelona. And so is, of all things, fresh-squeezed orange juice. Early in the morning you can find delivery trucks dropping off sacks of oranges to restaurants, and every restaurant from fine dining to fast food serve fresh-squeezed orange juice, and you’ll see Zumex orange juicers.

Going to Barcelona and not having a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette is like going to New York City and not having pizza. It’s just something you do. Paella is also a local favorite.

Be aware of the different dining hours. Lunch is typically eaten after 1 p.m. and dinner usually 10 p.m. or later. Many restaurants don’t open for dinner before 9 p.m. Don’t despair if this is too late in the evening for you. There are plenty of tapas bars all around where you can have a light pre-dinner meal. The bottom line, you won’t go hungry. While you’re at Mobile World Congress there are concessions for food, coffee, soft drinks, beer and wine all around the convention center.

The Parties

Networking events (aka parties) are a big part of the Mobile World Congress experience. Many parties start late, but not so late that they’re outside the norm for Barcelona. Some parties will go well past 2 a.m. Some nights out may last to 6 a.m. That happens in Barcelona. But here’s the secret: while Barcelonans may stay out at night to 6 a.m., even for a business gathering, they won’t do that every single night. They also have a secret weapon that is not available to Mobile World Congress attendees: the siesta. Invisible to the people working and walking the floor of Mobile World Congress, from 1:30 to 4:00 Barcelona grinds to a halt. Stores close and people go to a long relaxing lunch. Some may even go home for a nap. Unlike the native Barcelonan, Mobile World Congress attendees feel it is their obligation to party until the wee hours of the morning every single night of the show, and many of these people will find themselves on the show floor by 7:30 a.m. that very same morning. Just watch how the energy level of the show drops precipitously after the first night.

Guard Your Health

You are probably going to parties and late-night gatherings most of the nights you’re at the show, and you should. Just be sure to take care of yourself. Stay hydrated. Find time to rest. Bring some multivitamins along with you, and eat healthy when you can.

TIPS

  • Take an extra outfit with you in your carry-on bag
  • Get travel insurance
  • Know you won’t be shopping on Sunday
  • Use the Metro (subway)
  • Dinner is eaten after 10 p.m.
  • Prepare to have little sleep
  • Guard your health