Written Assignment 5
Sometime in the course of your education or your career you will probably be asked to lead or participate in a presentation. You’ll find it valuable to know the options available for presenting information to a group in a clear and engaging manner.
Read the lesson material as well as the articles by TechRadar and also by Spencer referenced in your study materials. (You may also do further research, if desired.) Then compose a brief document of between 500 and 850 words (approximately 2 to 3 pages long). Your document should do all of the following:
Compare at least two of the tools, examining advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Speculate about why a particular situation or setting might call for one type of software over another.
Think about classroom, social, or workplace experience you have had as an audience member for a presentation. Critique one aspect (either positive or negative) of the presenter’s use of presentation software. [MO 5.1, MO 5.2]
SOS-110: CRITICAL INFORMATION LITERACY
Lesson 5—Professional Communication
Lesson 5 discusses best practices for academic and professional communication. You will explore communication methods, elements of professional communication, and tips for maintaining a professional online presence.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT COMMUNICATION METHOD
One of the first considerations for managing professional and academic communication is choosing the right method of communication for the task at hand. Imagine, for example, that you don’t understand a part of the rubric for an assignment in this course. There are several possible avenues for finding a solution, including:
Posting in the Ask the Mentor Forum.
Posting in the Private Student-Mentor Forum.
Posting in the Class Lounge.
Calling your mentor.
Submitting a Help Desk ticket.
Setting up a meeting with your advisor.
You’re probably thinking that the list goes overboard, but those really are the help options available to students at Thomas Edison State University. However, for a question about a point on a rubric, you wouldn’t need a meeting with your advisor—it might be best just to post in the Ask the Mentor forum. The answer to your question could probably benefit the entire class. Questions of a personal nature would be sent to the Private Student-Mentor Forum; non-course-specific issues regarding the University as a whole (such as a request for an ADA accommodation) would go through your advisor. The key to each of these communication contexts is using the right method of communication for the task at hand. You need to consider what information you are putting out into the world, what action you want from the audience receiving that information, and the best form to reach that audience.
Given the ever-expanding range of communication technologies, you have a growing array of ways to communicate. Workplaces commonly use phone calls, face-to-face meetings, online meeting and messaging tools, and e-mail to communicate.
Telephone Calls. Telephone calls tend to be great for quick questions or anything that involves a back-and-forth, where people need information in order to get to the next level of understanding. Phone calls also work to forge personal connections. Given the ways business has changed and technology has grown, however, many workplaces now rely on messaging tools for these types of back-and-forth exchanges. Regardless of format though, the same rules apply. Be considerate and polite at the start of the exchange. Keep the conversation on topic. Use proper grammar and avoid slang or jargon unless you know your audience well enough to abandon formality.
Meetings. Meetings are used to share information in larger groups. They can be either top-down or interactive, depending on the demands of the group and the topic. This applies to both face-to-face and online meeting. It is best to set an agenda prior to any meeting. At the outset, people should be given a chance to introduce themselves. Rules about when to ask questions should be established. During face-to-face meetings, participants should take care to pay attention to the room rather than to their electronic devices. In fact, making eye contact is a great way to demonstrate one is listening and to project professionalism in meetings. For online meetings, participants should be wary of background noise—muting your microphone unless you are speaking is the safest plan. When using a webcam, consider how any background that is visible might appear to others. Always make sure you maintain a professional appearance. A job applicant in a Skype interview, for example, would want to ensure there isn’t a pile of dirty laundry on the treadmill behind her or him that might be picked up by the webcam.
E-mail. E-mail is used for professional and academic communications to share information and solicit information. E-mail offers the advantage of an automatic record of the exchanges, and this can be useful when you need to refer back to the communication or have a record of it for a later date.
To be effective with e-mail, it helps to keep in mind the communication pressures people face. Your recipient might receive hundreds of e-mails in a given week. Remaining aware of the time crunch faced by your recipients can help you design better e-mails.
Send your e-mail only to the people that actually need the information. Don’t cc or bcc unless it is required. If an exchange doesn’t actually involve someone, leave them out of the loop of conversation and send them a summary follow-up if they need to be informed that the conversation took place.
2. Use the subject line wisely. Make it short and focused. A subject line should tell your audience at a glance what the message is about. It should only be a few words, not a complete sentence. For example, if you are changing the time of your upcoming March meeting, a good subject line would be “March Meeting Time Change.” Keep subject lines simple and to the point.
3. Be concise with your writing. For every sentence you include in an e-mail ask yourself—do I need to say this? Does my audience need to read this? Only include what they need in order to be informed and/or take action on your request.
4. Use whitespace. Whitespace means the lines between paragraphs. It is much easier to read online when there is some spacing between the chunks of text. Even bulleted lists can help. Avoid preparing your message as a single paragraph of 20 sentences strung together.
5. Consider fonting changes such as bold and italic, but use them sparingly:
a. Use bold when you want to call attention to a key word or element that might not stand out otherwise.
b. Use italic when you are referring to a word as a word (as with whitespace above), and use italic occasionally for emphasis.
6. However, do not use all caps (ALL CAPITAL LETTERS) as it is unnecessary and unprofessional.
7. Proofread. Just as you wouldn’t go into the office every day without brushing your hair, don’t let your e-mails go out into the world without a little attention to detail. It’s a good idea to let them sit a minute before you send them. Then read them over. Make sure you aren’t missing any information, that all words are spelled correctly, and that your grammar is consistently correct.
8. Finally, use a signature line. Give your contact information and job title at the bottom of the e-mail; this makes it much easier for your reader to figure out who you are and how to reach back out to you. It is best not to include any type of personal quote or message in your signature line, especially one of a political or religious nature. You’re free to share that information with friends, but it doesn’t belong in professional communication.
The overarching rule is always to keep your audience in mind. Avoid wasting their time, provide them with they information they need to take action, and use a communication method that will convey your message most efficiently.
ONLINE PRESENTATION TOOLS
Just as there is an expanded the range of tools available for everyday communication, there is also a wide range of technology tools available for presentations. Microsoft PowerPoint is no longer the only slide creation tool available.
Google Slides enables you to create slideshows and collaborate with others to do so online.
Prezi offers many features, such as zoom reveal to focus in on an area of a slide, as well as dynamically animated transitions between slides.
Animoto puts pictures and slides to music; you can use existing photos, video clips, and music clips to create a presentation.
Powtoon allows you to create animated presentations or explanation videos.
No matter which online presentation tool you use, however, here are a few tips about how to make them effective at communicating information.
You want to select the tool that matches the tone of your presentation. If you were presenting to a banking institution about a change in a federal law regarding fraud, you wouldn’t select Powtoon to convert your serious presentation into a cartoon. In this case, you would probably rely on PowerPoint and use a template that matches the branding of your employer. However, a presentation to local high school students at a job fair about your career field might be a great time to pull out Powtoon and create a cartoon. Always use the tool that best matches the audience and the formality of the presentation.
2. Follow time-honored presentation rules Give your presentation a title. Introduce it on one of the first few slides before diving in to orient your audience.
3. Just as in your essays where paragraphs tackle one idea each, when doing a presentation don’t cram more than one idea onto a slide. Along these lines, make sure you are staying on topic; don’t include information that isn’t needed. Be concise and thoughtful about what you choose to include.
4. Make sure your visuals serve a purpose; don’t just include them to be flashy. Visuals should add to the information you are presenting. Like your presentation tool itself, visuals should match the formality of the presentation and the group you are presenting to. The banking presentation mentioned earlier wouldn’t be the place to include clip art of dancing bears.
5. Don’t forget to source your information. Documentation styles like APA and MLA aren’t just for academic papers. If you use someone else’s ideas or material in your presentation, make sure you cite it properly—and that goes as well for any visuals that you pulled from the Internet. Always respect intellectual property.
6. Finally, leave time for questions. If you are delivering your presentation in real time, you can ask for questions as you move through the presentation or leave room at the end for it. If you are delivering the presentation online asynchronously, include your contact information in the presentation should someone want to follow up with you.
BEING PROFESSIONAL ONLINE
One of the oft-quoted rules of thumb for someone seeking to maintain a professional presence online involves grandmothers: If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see you say it or do it, don’t post it online. Whatever winds up on the Internet gets catalogued into a vast searchable web of databases, and much of this data can never be deleted without great time and expense. So you might just want to replace the word grandmother above with employer. Employers sometimes use searches to learn about applicants for positions and promotions. While the law is not completely clear about how much your employer or potential employer can and should be able to use against you drawn from your online activities (laws vary by state), wise job seekers and employees will be careful in creating their online presence, shaping it with professionalism in mind.
One way to manage your professional contacts and presence online is through LinkedIn. This is a social media platform that is shaped around building and maintaining professional connections. It enables users to create a digital resume that speaks to their skills and goals for professional growth. LinkedIn is used by people looking for work, employers looking for workers, and people who want to maintain connections in their field for networking purposes.
LinkedIn is the largest professional network, but it is not the only one. Other platforms include the following:
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Written Assignment 5