Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Professional Communications Toolkit (SAGE)

Presentation skills are incredibly important for intelligence professionals. It is not by chance that the item tagged in this blog the most so far has been "presentation". You have to be smart to be in intelligence but coupling those smarts with excellent briefing skills can help take you far.

I received an email the other day that pointed me to an interesting book, The Professional Communications Toolkit by Joel Whalen (Thanks, Pat!). I skimmed the three chapters available online and all were worth the time and the rest of the book seems equally valuable. As always, the notes in italics are mine.

Chapter 1 - Effective Communication: Its Not About You


  • "Effective communication happens in the mind of the person who receives your message, not in your mind."
  • "When you get a meaningful thought, a part of your brain called the limbic system activates (Gershon, 1999). A surge of neurotransmitters is produced that resonates with cousin-receptors residing in your gut. Literally, your gut—from the back of your throat, down your esophagus, through your stomach and intestines—is lined with the same type of receptors that compose your brain."
  • "Your listeners believe what you’re saying is important and true, not just because they think you make “sense.” Their bodies work with the cerebral cortex to form 'Felt Sense'. The Felt Sense feeling tells them that what you’re saying is the truth."

Chapter 3 - The Power and Limitations of Speaking

Highlights (Some interesting explanations of recent neurological research here as well):
  • "The most typical result of communication is miscommunication. Each communication results in a different meaning in the speaker’s mind and the listener’s mind. So, if you’re thinking “people don’t always understand me when I need them to,” you’re in good company."
  • "Repetition does not work—You may have been taught that repetition aids memory. Advertising people are advised to repeat their ideas three times in a commercial. I’ve learned that repetition does not get your listener to remember. What does aid memory, every time, is things said first, last, and sensory-rich messages."
  • "What is always forgotten—The demonstrators forget numbers, names, and other details. They also don’t remember any sequence of events. If a story has four steps, people forget the order of when things happen. When you speak, you create a sense that things happen simultaneously, in flashes."

Chapter 5 - Managing Communication Anxiety

Highlights (Lots of good tips here for managing your fears when you have to speak in public):
  • "When you get speech anxiety, your pulse soars to intense levels, as it does during heavy physical exercise. After 3 to 5 minutes, your body begins to slow down, and your pulse drops dramatically to 90 to 100 beats per minute (bpm)."
  • "It’s as if you’re temporarily insane."
  • "Some anxiety is good (See chart below).

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