Presentations and social skills

In her recent New York Times article, Why What You Learned in Preschool Is Crucial at WorkClaire Cain Miller describes the need for social skills in the modern-day workplace. Cain Miller points out that the demand for jobs that involve technical skills only are actually falling, while positions requiring a blend of technical and social skills are on the rise.

As I read the piece, I was reminded of a sales meeting I attended years ago. The IT director was asked to demonstrate a new internal website designed to let the salespeople see from the road who was available at their cubicles so we could call or email them and get an immediate response. What followed was a chalk-dust-dry, painful slog through a series of screens that were short on benefits and long on irrelevance. I was just about to try for an early exit to raid the snack table, when I heard the meeting manager clear her throat.

“Thanks, Dan. Just want to let you know you’re five minutes over your time.”

Director Dan looked up from his hunched position over the computer. “OK. Do you want me to stop?”

“Yes. You should probably wrap it up.”

Talk about lack of social skills. Dan was a nice guy, but he sounded about as effervescent at the W.O.P.R. from Wargames. I half-expected to hear “Greetings Professor Falken” followed by a polite invitation to play Tic-Tac-Toe.

Let me be clear: if you are an IT person in EdTech (or any industry for that matter) I am not suggesting that you turn yourself into a high-tech Buddy Hackett who is supposed to yuck it up with the sales force. But your work, no matter how indirect, impacts the lives of teachers and students.

[Tweet “Your work in #EdTech, no matter how indirect, impacts the lives of teachers and students.”]

Wear this mission like a badge—and make it the focus of any and every presentation you give. When you kick off your presentation with a clear mission and purpose, you’ll be surprised at your ability to be conversational during the talk. You’ll be able to link every key point back to your mission and purpose. And you’ll tie things up easily, by restating the key ideas and leaving your audience to connect them back to your mission and purpose.

[Tweet “Mission and purpose drive your entire #presentation.”]

Be careful though—do too good a job, and you’ll find the reps asking you to travel with them!

Follow Claire Cain Miller at @clairecm and me at @gambinospeaks.

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