Chapter 6. Professional Interaction – Communicative English for Engineers and Professionals

6

Professional Interaction

In this unit

“Regardless of the changes in technology, the market for well-crafted messages will always have an audience”.

 

–Steve Burnett

6.1 Introduction

Speaking well has a striking effect on your professional and personal life. In today’s world, where everyone is career oriented, we communicate at various levels for success in a profession. For procuring a job your knowledge, confidence, attitude and team skills are tested through group discussion where you interact with the other participants. Through interviews, you interact with your prospective employer. Once you get into a profession, you keep interacting professionally for expansion of business as well as for your personal growth. All professional exchanges of views are carried out with a purpose. Official meetings, presentations, conferences, seminars, etc., are some of the platforms where we all communicate, discuss or inform people from various professional backgrounds. In order to acquire techniques of professional interaction, the students should focus on the skills of group discussion, interview presentation.

6.2 Group Discussion

Group discussion is a specialized version of group interaction. It is usually carried out for the specific purpose of judging employability of the prospective candidates for a particular job. So, let us first see what group interaction means in general.

6.2.1 Group Interaction

A group interaction is a normal group activity that can be performed in a formal or an informal situation. Formal group interactions are carried out in offices, institutions, at meeting places or at recruitment centres through the activities like meetings, conferences, presentations and group discussions. Such official group interactions may take place within a small or a large group where the members sit together with a common purpose. On the other hand, an informal group interaction can crop up at any place like a college canteen, garden, hostel room, campus, classroom teaching, free periods, restaurants, waiting lounge, mess of an office, in a train or a bus or even at home. Why do people discuss? In an official situation, we interact to arrive at a common viewpoint, take a decision, exchange ideas, update information, seek a better perspective of an issue or to find out a common solution to a problem. Apart from these aims, we all interact for our basic need for socialization, entertainment or sometimes to pass our time. In short, we should exchange views for the development of a business, for personal relations as well as for the society and humanity as a whole.

6.2.2 What is a Group Discussion?

A group discussion, popularly abbreviated as GD, is one of the interactive group activities, with a specific objective of testing employability of the candidates for a particular job profile. It is an oral communication in a formal situation in which participants exchange their ideas and opinions with one another on a given topic, problem or situation, in a systematic manner to share information or to arrive at a common solution. It is an ideal exercise widely used as a type of personality test for evaluating many participants at a time. Normally, it is meant for those candidates who have qualified a written test and are supposed to be shortlisted for the final interview.

6.2.3 Relevance

Companies, today, select candidates not only on the basis of their knowledge but also, in some cases, perhaps more than that, on the basis of their soft skills. The ability to communicate effectively in a group as well as to lead the group successfully is the primary trait of a good personality that a company may require to carry out its business locally as well as globally. In this way, your overall personality has to be evaluated, and GD is an appropriate activity to judge a candidate on the above lines. Moreover, GD, has become a very popular recruitment drive, as it is time and cost effective and is conducted with ease without much hassle.

6.2.4 Purpose

The purpose of participating in a GD is manifold. The primary need, as has been mentioned earlier, is to judge the suitability of a candidate for a job. Apart from this, a regular practice of GD is helpful to:

  1. Improve English-speaking skills and abilities.
  2. Expand group interaction, persuasive skills, team spirit and leadership qualities.
  3. Inculcate analytical ability and the habit to remain to the point.
  4. Build up tolerance.
  5. Update your knowledge and share the same with others.
  6. Make an effort to come to a common viewpoint instead of confrontation.

6.2.5 The Process of Communication in a GD

Prior to the study of the methodology and the various components of a GD, let us first understand how a message flows in a GD. This will enable you to grasp the modalities of this type of interaction better. The message transmission in a GD follows a complex path and is not as direct as it is between a pair of a speaker and a listener. Ideally speaking, in a GD, an idea is encoded at one time, but it is simultaneously transmitted to multiple receivers. Each receiver decodes the message according to his/her understanding. If the message is direct, clear and to the point and the receivers are in tune with the speaker, it is decoded perfectly and helps the discussion achieve the purpose of arriving at a common viewpoint. However, if the message lacks language competency, clarity and conciseness, it may get distorted or interpreted differently by different participants. As a result, the feedbacks received are conflicting and this may result in a chaotic situation. Such a communication becomes a barrier to the smooth flow of a GD. You can observe the complexity of the message flow from Figure 6.1.

Figure 6.1 Process of communication in a GD.

6.2.6 Mechanism and Formats of GD

Group discussion is a group interaction within a small group, ranging from 5 to 10 members. The participants are asked to sit in a circle or a semicircle, in front of a circular or a semicircular table with their chest members. The evaluator announces the topic and the total time given for the discussion may vary from 15 to 20 minutes. He/she observes the dialogue closely and evaluates the participants to qualify for the next round, may be for the final round of the GD or for the interview. This is the most commonly adopted format of a GD. However, the observer may opt for different formats by using novel ideas for discussion:

  1. A topic is declared beforehand or a group is asked to choose a topic from the given ones. The participants may get 2 to 5 minutes to think.
  2. In the usual format, anyone may initiate the discussion but a particular candidate may also be asked to express his/her views in brief initially, and others may follow him/her one by one so that the members may get acquainted with one another’s stands.
  3. In the same way, any one of the members may come forward and conclude the GD or the participants may be asked to summarize it one by one.
  4. The group may be asked to decide the procedure of the GD mutually or it may be given to them beforehand.
  5. The discussion may take place on a topic to find a common solution to a given problem or a case study.
  6. In the modern age of rapid advancement of communication technology, GDs can also be conducted through teleconferencing or video conferencing.
  7. GDs may be conducted in the form of a case study where participants are given a case on a topic in written form. They study the topic carefully, think on its various aspects in about 3 to 5 minutes and then discuss it.

6.2.7 Group Discussion and Debate

The word ‘discuss’ has been derived from the Latin word ‘discuss’, meaning ‘drive away’ or ‘declare’, and it has nothing to do with the current interpretation of the word. ‘Discuss’ is closer to the Latin ‘discussionem’ which means ‘examination by arguments for and against’ and has almost the same meaning as that of a ‘debate’. Surprisingly, today, discussion and debate have emerged as two different formats with two different objectives. In a debate, a speaker argues either in favour of or against a topic and so it is competitive in nature. In a GD, a speaker can speak on the different angles of an issue. It is basically a supportive group process.

6.2.8 Components of a GD

The success of a GD depends upon how far the members have worked together for the common goal of a group consensus. No doubt, many group interactions fail as they are not able to reach a common viewpoint. It is, therefore, important for us to know the following components of an effective GD:

  • Personality
  • Communication skills
  • Group dynamics
  • Leadership qualities
  • Knowledge

Here, it has to be noted that these components are complementary to one another. Their individual merit should not be judged through the order of the sequence given above. In fact, their importance is relative, depending upon the preference of one component to the other by a specific employer. The characteristics of these components are discussed here along with the strategies for an effective GD.

6.2.9 Strategies for an Effective GD

6.2.9.1 Personality

A good first impression of a pleasing personality helps win the attention of the examiner. Personality manifestation is an important component of a GD as it gives others a complete picture of your attitude, confidence and team spirit. Personality is judged on the following lines:

  1. Dress and appearance: Dress and appearance matter a lot in creating a first impression about yourself even before you have spoken a single word. You should be careful about your dress as well as your looks and follow these tips:
    • Your dress should be sober, neat and well stitched. It need not be costly, new or of latest fashion as newly acquired clothes can make you self-conscious, cause discomfort and affect your performance. A well-dressed participant feels confident.
    • Your footwear should be formal, polished and clean with socks drawn tight on your legs and not falling down.
    • Hair should be cut neatly in a style that suits your personality.
    • You have to mind your nails if they are overgrown.
    • Take care of personal hygiene.
    • Dark trousers, a light-coloured matching shirt with a sober tie may be an ideal dress for both boys and girls. However, girls may go for the other decent official dresses too.
  2. Body Language: Body language is a non-verbal communication signal that you as a participant, transmit to the other members of the group. Your body cues help others judge your confidence, openness, composure, cooperativeness, friendliness, alertness, insecurity, nervousness, positive or negative attitude and so forth. Some of the important non-verbal pointers that you should try to adopt are as follows:
    • Maintain eye contact with the listeners as well as the speaker and do not look here and there.
    • Never address or look at the panel of the observers.
    • Exhibit cheerful and friendly expressions.
    • Let your eyes radiate confidence.
    • Do meaningful hand gestures.
    • Do not put your hands in your pockets or sit with your hands crossed.
    • Do not fiddle with things such as pen, wristwatch, bangle, button, tie and hair.
    • Sit erect and neither slouch nor sit with your legs crossed.
    • Do not touch other participants of the group while interaction is going on.
    • Do not use aggressive body language.
    • Above all, do not get conscious of your non-verbal signals. “Be energetic outside but composed from within”, is the mantra that helps you exhibit a positive body language.
  3. Behaviour: Your public behaviour is again a judgement of your personality. The first impression on the viewers is affected by your etiquettes too. What you give so shall you get. If you show good manners, you get the same in return. This is beneficial for the whole group as well. The following etiquettes should be adopted in a GD:
    • Be courteous, polite and helpful to the co-participants.
    • Be assertive but maintain politeness.
    • Get involved in the discussion and do not be indifferent.
    • Be appreciative and considerate.
    • Refute/oppose/disagree with others’ views respectfully.
    • Be ready to admit your mistake.
    • Shake hands with co-participants at the start as well as at the end.

6.2.9.2 Communication Skills

The ability to express your knowledge orally in an effective way is a necessary requirement of a GD. As most of the GDs today are carried out in English, you should possess good communication skills in English that will help you speak confidently and express your views convincingly. Remember, during the discussion your speaking skills are judged minutely. Adopt the following strategies to attain effective speaking and fluency:

  • Have good group-listening skills for effective participation and leadership.
  • Use simple and appropriate words with the right pronunciation.
  • Use grammatically correct sentences, concise and unambiguous expressions.
  • Use simple language without exaggeration and flowery expressions.
  • Maintain clarity of expression for the right understanding by the listeners.
  • Speak fluently but with a moderate speed, pauses and volume.
  • Use tone variation and do not let your speech become monotonous.
  • Tone should be pleasing and not commanding.
  • Do not interact just in monosyllables such as “yes” or “no.”
  • Do not use non-word fillers such as ‘you know’; ‘you see’; ‘like’; ‘well,’ etc., too often.
  • Filler-sounds like ‘aaaaaa….. ‘eeerrr’ and ‘ummmm…..’ must be checked.
  • GD is an official interaction, do not use slangs.
  • Use linking phrases to link arguments.
  • Make use of polite expressions to disagree or to interrupt.
  • Avoid using technical terms. Explain complex concepts in simple language.

6.2.9.3 Group Dynamics

Employers, today, search for self-motivated candidates who can work in a team-orientated environment. So, group-management skills are a must for the participants of a GD. The organizers test you whether you can get along with the other people or whether you are a self-obsessed person. For this reason, participants have to understand that in a GD they will all succeed or fail together. If a member is not contributing, he/she will not only hurt himself/herself but also the group as a whole. You can manage a group well by using the following tactics:

  • Generate agreement on a common viewpoint and every member should work for it.
  • Be adaptable and adjust with the other members.
  • Show positive attitude towards others’ views even if you do not agree with them.
  • Do not indulge in needless talks and private dialogue with your neighbour as it may distract others.
  • Accept criticism sportingly.
  • Motivate other participants to contribute and to be cooperative.
  • Deal with hostile members and conflicts tactfully; otherwise, the whole team will be a loser.
  • To join the discussion, drive yourself in at the earliest suitable moment of a pause, when a speaker has completed his/her arguments or when a speaker is needlessly prolonging the arguments or the discussion is in a state of confusion and chaos or when you find a weak speaker unable to contribute.
  • Never enter the discussion with a disagreement. First agree with the speaker and then present your views.
  • Do not make personal remarks or show anger.
  • Have a shared leadership as there is no elected leader in a GD.

6.2.9.4 Leadership Qualities

Employers look not only for team workers but also for leaders; so, in every GD they seek an element of leadership. They observe the participants very closely and pinpoint those who have good leadership traits. The success or failure of a GD depends a lot on the utilization of the elements of leadership. All GDs provide their participants with numerous opportunities to exhibit their leadership qualities as well as to steer the discussion to its success. Every member should try to be the first to grab the chances to show his/her leadership traits. Some of the important leadership qualities are as follows:

  • Persuade the members to agree on the format of the GD if it has not been announced by the observer.
  • Take an initiative to start the discussion and to promote maximum participation.
  • Maintain a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Handle chaotic situations confidently without losing your temper.
  • Be empathetic and respectful to other’s views and beliefs.
  • Sum up the previous speaker’s point before expressing your own views or asking the next one to speak.
  • Encourage reticent members to contribute.
  • Make an effort to keep the discussion on the track of the given topic.
  • Be impartial and objective.
  • Look at the group as a whole and monitor each member.
  • Neither allow any one member to speak for long nor dominate the GD.
  • Steer the group to a common viewpoint.
  • Keep track of the allotted time.
  • Do not lose heart if you are not able to initiate. Try to be the first to give a balanced sum up emphasizing agreements to indicate the common viewpoint.

In a nutshell, there is a lot of scope to show team spirit and leadership qualities. With your knowledge, tactfulness and good interactive skills you can always make your presence felt.

6.2.9.5 Knowledge

Knowledge is power but ignorance is surely not bliss, especially during the recruitment activities such as GDs and interviews. If one lacks knowledge, other skills of GD are meaningless. On the contrary, the presence of knowledge strengthens each one of them. The initial good impression on the observers will soon wither away, if you are not able to justify your stand with the latest facts and knowledge. If you have a good stock of information, you are confident, more fluent and relevant. To achieve this aim, you must read a lot and gather facts from different sources. At the same time, you have to keep in mind that knowledge is not static. Facts and information keep on changing; so, you should always try to update yourself. Support your ideas with facts and do not bluff if you are not aware of certain facts or if you are proved wrong. On the contrary, show eagerness to enhance your knowledge. If you have no information on the topic, listen to others, analyze the ideas quickly, take a stand and enter the GD at the first chance.

6.2.9.6 Taking a Stand

The techniques discussed above in various points under the heading ‘Strategies for an Effective Group Discussion’, are practical tips that you should adopt during a GD. However, some useful dos and don’ts, that could not be included in this part, are given as follows:

  • You are free to take stands that may be for or against or you can take both. Stick to your point with conviction; otherwise, it will reflect indecisiveness, lack of confidence as well as knowledge. Only in a rare situation you may alter your stand tactfully, if a member gives a solid counter-argument which is difficult to negate.

6.2.10 Preparation of a Group Discussion

If you are participating in a GD, it is important to make sure you’re prepared beforehand. Well-prepared participants communicate their ideas to one another confidently and the discussion blossoms naturally and spontaneously. On the other hand, if they are not prepared, the purpose of the discussion is defeated.

To make sure that you are prepared for GDs, there are a number of guidelines you should follow. You should be aware of the issues that are being taken for GDs currently, read a lot about them, gather information on them and their past links as well. Do regular net surfing for facts and watch informative TV programmes. The tips given in this chapter are very practical but they need a lot of practice for their best use. Carry out mock GDs regularly with your friends as well as with those whom you do not know. Record or video shoot your GD for analysis. Groom your personality to develop the required soft skills. Work on your communication skills. Learn group dynamics by interacting with groups informally also. Remember that a GD cannot be prepared overnight; rather, it needs careful grooming, thorough study and whole-hearted effort.

6.2.11 Range of Topics

The range of topics for a GD is wide and a long list of topics can be prepared. However, we can roughly classify them for our convenience into seven categories. Some category-wise examples are as follows:

  1. Current: Corruption is the price we pay for democracy/Cut-off marks for IIT entrance should not be increased from 60% to 80%.
  2. Social: Euthanasia (mercy killing) should be legalized/Cricket is overemphasized in India.
  3. Political: Value-based politics is the need of the hour/Women’s reservation is the call of the day.
  4. Economic: The current economic recession has not affected India’s economy/Sixth pay commission is a burden on the government.
  5. Management: Women are better managers than men/Rush for MBA is really a rush for big money.
  6. Abstract/creative: The wheel is turning round and round/When I woke up in the morning I saw……/A white dot/Blue grass.
  7. Case studies: A swine flu case; Downfall of an xyz company.

6.2.12 Some Useful Phrases

The success of a GD, to a large extent, depends on your communication skills. You should use a variety of appropriate and polite phrases to agree, disagree, support opinions, give opinions, motivate, etc. The category-wise list of some useful phrases to be used in a GD is as follows:

1. To initiate a GD:    Well friends, may I have your attention please?/My dear friends, we have been given the task of performing a GD on… /Hello everybody, can I have your attention for a minute…? We should begin the discussion now/shall we start?

2. Asking for Views:    What do you think/feel about this?/Well, sir, do you have anything to say?/Does anybody have any comments to add?/Ma’am have you any views on this?/Well friends any more suggestions?

3. Giving Views:    Friends, I believe that… /According to me… /I think personally it is… /I’m pretty convinced that… /As far as I’m concerned… /I have no doubt in saying that… /I think it is perfectly clear to everybody that… /From my point of view/You may be right but the way I see it is a bit different/It appears to me/I might agree with you but it seems to me….

4. Showing Agreement:    My friend, I completely agree/I’m sure it’s an excellent idea/That’s a great proposal, isn’t it?/Of course, you are right/Yes, why not?/Yes, certainly/Exactly/I agree with you/I think that is fine/Well said, sir or madam/Sounds OK.

5. Showing Disagreement:    My friend, I’m sorry, I don’t agree/Excuse me dear, I disagree/I beg your pardon friend but I feel we all differ/You may have a valid point but I have a different view/Of course, not/I’m afraid, this is not acceptable/I appreciate but….

6. Expressing Common View Point:    OK friends, thank you very much for contributing your precious arguments. In the end, we are happy to say that we all agree to some major points like… /I think that is the best solution/We all completely favour this/There may be some dissimilarities in our thinking but that is quite human, isn’t it?

6.2.13 Evaluation Process

Evaluation of the candidates in a GD is normally done taking into consideration its various components of personality, oral communication skills, leadership qualities, group dynamics and knowledge. Nonetheless, the assessment can be company specific as the observers may be looking for some particular traits in the prospective candidates.

Task

  1. What is a GD? Discuss its relevance and purpose.
  2. Elaborate the various components of a GD.
  3. Write short notes on:
    1. Communication process involved in a GD
    2. Various formats of a GD
  4. Perform a mock GD with your friends/colleagues on the following topics:
    1. Justice delayed is justice denied
    2. Examinations should be abolished
    3. Female foeticide is a crime against God

6.3 Job Interviews

A job interview is a systematic and planned method of oral interaction between an employer and a prospective candidate to gather relevant information about the applicant for a specific job position or promotion.

6.3.1 Introduction

The word ‘interview’, which was formerly used as ‘enterview’, originated from a 16th century French word ‘entrevoir’, which means ‘to see each other’. The original meaning of the word appears to be very close to its modern context that considers an employment interview as an interaction between the interviewee and the interviewer. The purpose of an interview may vary from seeking opinions to interrogation, from recruitment and promotions to admissions. Print and electronic media journalists interview politicians, film stars, sports personnel, etc., as well as common man to gather information or to seek their opinion. A doctor interviews a patient, police interrogate a suspect, students are interviewed in viva voce tests and an employer interacts with an employment seeker for different purposes.

6.3.2 Job Interviews

In the current professional environment, job interviews have become much more complex and challenging than what they used to be earlier. The reason is the growing competition, changing demands of the job market and focus on the personality traits of the candidates. Normally, you have to go through a four-tier system of selection where short listing of applicants takes place through:

  • Screening of resumes
  • Written aptitude test
  • Group discussion
  • Interview

Experts consider interviews as the most apt method to judge the suitability of candidates for a particular job. There may be a single interview to complete the selection process or multiple rounds may also be used to shortlist a large number of candidates or to carry out a careful selection for a challenging and demanding job. Unlike a GD, a job interview is a planned exercise with a purpose to achieve the desired results. At the same time, it is conducted with a little informality so as to motivate candidates to feel free and to express their best.

6.3.3 Myths about Job Interviews

Most people believe that job interviews are frightening situations in which they will be grilled by the probing questions of the interviewers. You need not worry as, in the current scenario, job interviews are all about making the best matches in the current scenario. It is no longer a one-sided affair; rather, it is a kind of conversation with a specific purpose. Although, the interaction takes place between the interviewer and the interviewee through questioning, the challenge of judgement is equally on both the sides. Hence, job interviews require certain skills that an applicant should acquire along with becoming aware of their different types and formats to improve his/her chances of success.

6.3.4 Objectives

The primary objective of all the job interviews, as the name suggests, is to ascertain the suitability of a candidate for a particular job profile. There are secondary goals as well depending on the type of interview, requirements of the company and its future prospects. The interviewers, especially human resource managers, aim to judge a job-seeker’s personality, attitude, ability to put across his/her ideas, sense of values, etiquettes, character, mental stability, honesty, problem-solving skills, strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, etc. The secondary objectives play a crucial role in taking an interviewer to the final aim of recruiting a suitable candidate.

6.3.5 Venues

Traditional venues of the job interviews have been the human resource departments and the recruitment offices of the companies. Today, HR personnel move out of the four walls of their offices and visit campuses of various universities and institutions. This is cost effective and gives them an opportunity to evaluate students in the natural environment of their institutions. Lunch interviews in hotels have become quite popular as they help the recruiters test personality traits of the applicants in an informal environment. Rapid advancement in the field of information technology has given rise to telephone and videoconferencing interviews that can be attended while sitting at home also.

6.3.6 Types of Job Interviews

There are different types of job interviews. Employers use them according to the requirement of the vacant position and their convenience. They choose the type of interview also according to the stage of selection of a prospective candidate. The modes of interviews frequently used by the companies today are:

1. Traditional Interviews:    A traditional interview is a face-to-face interview taken by one or maximum two interviewers trying to evaluate abilities of the applicants, their knowledge, oral skills and manners. Such interviews are generally structured wherein the experts ask the same type of questions in the same style. Their questions are broad based such as, ‘Why do you want to work for this company?’ and ‘Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses,’ etc. Success or failure in the interview is often based more on your knowledge and ability to communicate than on your attitude.

2. Panel Interviews:    In panel interviews, the interviewers sit in a panel of three to eight members. The candidate is supposed to answer their questions that are shot at him/her randomly from different members. It is a test of nerves and patience as well as knowledge when so many pairs of probing eyes are looking intently at one person. Each expert may limit his/her queries to a specific aspect of evaluation.

3. Behavioural Interviews:    Behavioural job interviews are based on the concept that past is the best indicator of the future behaviour. It provides insight on how a candidate’s mind works. You are made to recall some specific instances based on your experience, such as: ‘Tell us about an experience when you failed to achieve a goal’/‘Give us a specific example when you managed several projects at a time,’ etc.

While answering such questions, speak the truth and do not make any guesses. Be very specific about the incident and the year or the month of its happening. It would be better if you can recall the date and time too. Tell them what your reaction was and how you managed to deal with it successfully. You will have several follow-up questions. Students facing campus interviews and the recent passouts should focus on class projects and college-level group situations. Hobbies and volunteer work may also provide examples.

4. Situational Interviews:    In situational interviewing, a candidate may be asked to respond to a specific situation he/she may face on the job. The questions are specifically designed to draw out the best of a person’s analytical and problem-solving skills as well as the way to handle them at a short notice. Situational interviews are similar to behavioural interviews, except the fact that the latter give thrust on a past experience while the former focus on a hypothetical situation. In a situational interview, the expert may ask: ‘How would you handle a discontented employee in your department who has made a habit of arriving late to work and causing problems during the day?’ whereas, in a behaviour interview the same question may be, ‘Give an example from the past when you have handled a difficult person.’

5. Stress Interviews:    Today, all of us have to learn to live with long and hectic official schedules and to balance them with our domestic responsibilities. Stress interviews are ideal to find out how a person handles pressure situations. The experts may test behaviour of the candidates in a busy environment; question them about handling heavy workloads, parallel projects and conflicting situations. Moreover, such interviews may take place late nights, the interviewees are deliberately kept waiting and the interviewer usually behaves in an uninterested or hostile manner. He may avoid eye contact, yawn, roll his/her eyes or sigh at the candidate’s answers, interrupt, keep on eating something, take phone calls, or ask questions in an insulting, sarcastic or challenging tone. The goal is to irritate you purposely and to test how you cope up with such conditions. Candidates may also be asked to deliver a presentation to both, the selection panel as well as the other candidates, perform role-plays or participate in games. This is obviously stressful and is therefore useful to know how the candidate will perform under the similar circumstances. For example: “If you caught your boss cheating on his expenses, what would you do?”/“(A deep sigh) Well, if that’s the best answer you can give … (shakes head), we cannot help you out.”/“I don’t feel like we’re getting to the crux of the matter here. Start again…tell me what you really mean” The best way to deal with stress-giving questions is to generalize the process and be relaxed. Once you realize that there is nothing personal behind the interviewer’s approach, it is easier to handle the questions.

6. Technical Interviews:    Technical Interviews are usually carried out prior to the HR interviews to test the basic understanding of the specific trade. Although companies do train their employees after hiring, they expect them to have basic technical knowledge of the particular field. Incomplete or incorrect information indicates that the applicants do not take things seriously. So, be thorough with your subjects and have the latest updates on them.

7. Telephone Interviews:    Telephone interviews take place if a recruiter wishes to shortlist a large number of candidates or a job applicant is at a significant distance from the location of the hiring company. It saves cost and time. Along with this, it may be a test of your telephonic skills as well. Take the call of the interviewer at a quiet place, with your resume and other notes highlighted for your ready reference. If you have to make a call, do it within 24 hours of receiving your prospective employer’s calling you. Telephone them at a time convenient to them. Listen carefully, and speak with energy, proper expressions and interest. Treat the call as important as a face-to-face interview.

8. Lunch or Dinner Interviews:    Companies use lunch or dinner interviews to test the informal side of a candidate’s personality. How would you behave at a business lunch or dinner? The best way to deal with this situation is to take it as an official meal by observing all the protocols of a formal get together. Do not get too informal with your prospective bosses and colleagues and give them their due respect. Do not consume alcohol. Take it as an opportunity to show your best conduct.

6.3.7 Preparation for Job Interview

Even before you have received your interview call letter, you should start preparing for your interview systematically. It may not be your first interview; still proper homework helps you win more than half the battle. This will boost your confidence level required to support your candidature and give you the desired strength to deal with anxiety as well as with stress questions. The best jobseekers not only prepare answers to typical interview questions but also anticipate the type of interview expected. The guidelines given as under will help you prepare for your interview:

Analyze Yourself:    Start your homework with self-analysis to explore yourself as well as your past. Identify your technical and personal skills. Know your strengths—at least three—relevant to the requirement of the job. Rehearse speaking on them and relate them to the requirement of the job. Explore your weaknesses too, find out how you utilize them positively and what you are doing to overcome them. Be sure about your short and long term career goals and how you plan to achieve them. Spot your special interests and hobbies. Assemble evidences on how and what you have achieved in the past—proof puts you ahead. This will assist you in dealing with behavioural interviews (for details see Section 6.3.6).

Research the Organization:    Once you have analyzed yourself, try to learn as much as you can about the organization, its history, management, priorities, products, standing, competitors, work culture, hiring and promotion policies, training programmes and find out what it expects the most from its ideal employees. Your awareness will surely reveal your initiative along with your genuine interest in the organization and will put you in a strong position. Tailor your skills, interests and talents to company’s requirements and rehearse speaking on them so that you may satisfy all the queries in this regard. Remember you have to market yourself as the best product and sell what the buyer is buying. Don’t forget to evaluate your future with the company and the job profile.

Develop your Soft Skills:    Personality traits, etiquettes and oral skills in English are the basic requisites for various types of job interviews. Be a “can do” person. As a daily exercise, practice being more optimistic by giving a positive turn to events and situations you would normally regard as negative. In this way, you will raise your level of optimism. Get into an enthusiastic and alert mindset. Do not have baseless fear about failure or success as you are not a victim rather an active participant in a healthy dialogue. To deal with stress questions, develop the habit of remaining calm in real life pressure situations. Regular yoga and meditation will help you achieve this goal.

Brush up your Oral Skills:    A job interview is also a test of your oral skills in English. If they need improvement, do it without delay as they take time to develop. Practice expressing yourself in English by speaking for 1 or 2 minutes on various topics. Study ‘Learning Strategies for Effective Communication’ dealt with in this book at 1.5. Build up effective telephoning skills for telephone interviews.

Use the Right Body Language and Manners:    You can groom them by practicing during the mock interviews. (Study them in detail in Section 6.3.8.).

Prepare an Attractive Resume:    Your resume should be up to date and presentable. You should be honest about the information given in it and should be able to satisfy the queries on each point. At the same time, your resume should include and highlight all the skills, achievements and qualities required for the particular post. Look at the weak areas of your CV and prepare yourself to give positive answers of those points.

Be Thorough with the Basics:    You should be thorough with the basic concepts of your trade in addition to their practical applications, especially, in relation to your job profile. Read a lot, surf net for facts, watch informative programmes on TV, discuss with friends and teachers to have knowledge of the current affairs and keep yourself in touch with the happenings around you.

Rehearse your Answers:    Practice answering the possible questions from 30 seconds to 2 minutes in front of a mirror or with a friend. Don’t try to memorize answers word for word, jot down a few key words for each answer.

Carry out Mock Interviews:    Participate in mock interviews to have a virtual experience of the interview. You can audio- or video record the sessions for analysis and improvement.

6.3.8 Appearing for an Interview

When you have prepared for your job interview properly and have gained confidence, study the various techniques to be used for making a successful appearance in a job interview. Remember that the first impression creates a lasting impact on the mind of the interviewers. During the interview, you are assessed on the grounds of dress, appearance, etiquettes, attitude, body language, oral communication skills, knowledge, experience and achievements. All these can be summed up under three major heads:

  • Personality
  • Oral communication skills
  • Knowledge

These factors are important individually as well as jointly to judge the suitability of an applicant for a specific job profile. Go through the following tips for facing an interview and make your preparations according to that.

6.3.8.1 Personality

  • Make a good first impression by wearing a conventional, sober and dignified dress. Avoid wearing new clothes. Wear dark trousers, light matching shirt and a tie. Girls can go for other decent official dresses too. A well-fitting dress is good to boost your confidence. Be well groomed and wear sober, official and polished footwear with socks drawn tight on your legs. Hair and nails should be neatly cut. Do not use clunky or flashy jewellery. Avoid strong perfumes and cigarettes.
  • Be punctual. Nonpunctuality can cost you your job. Reach the venue half-an-hour earlier to remain calm and confident. If you are getting late, inform the office.
  • While waiting for your turn, after the interview and during lunch or dinner show your best manners and converse cheerfully. Use your mobile phone sparingly and switch it off as soon as your turn comes. Stand up to meet people. Do not boast, as somebody from the company might be observing you. Do not smoke or eat things like chewing gum, etc. Most important thing: do not argue or misbehave with the receptionist as he/she might be deliberately testing you as per the instructions of his/her boss.
  • Self-confidence comes automatically when you are well prepared, your personality is properly groomed for an interview, you have good oral skills and an impressive past record. In spite of this, you may feel nervous, as it is natural due to some negative thoughts of failure, etc. Think positively and try to divert your mind. One option is to do backward counting and this will surely calm you down.
  • Walk into the room with straight back, confident gait and pleasant expressions on your face. Greet the interviewers cheerfully and smartly maintaining eye contact with all members of the panel in one glance. Wish the lady members first, if any, and then the gentlemen. Shake hand firmly but not aggressively, and do it only if you are offered the same.
  • You should not sit unless asked or should seek permission. Sit erect at the front half of the chair, slightly leaning forward. Do not drag the chair, if required, lift it gently without making any sound. Put your arms on your lap. If the chair has arms do not put your elbows on them. Do not sit cross legged, place your legs parallel to each other. You should not wrap your arms around the chest as it indicates a personality that does not like to open up.
  • Carry a good and clean leather folder containing fresh copies of your resume and updated documents arranged chronologically. Put the folder on the table in front of you or keep it on your lap if the table is not provided. Do not hand over your folder unless you are asked to do so.
  • Maintain eye contact while speaking as well as listening and do not stare at the interviewers. Do not look here and there as it shows lack of interest, diffidence or short attention span. Give equal response to all the members even if a few of them are actively participating. Look at all the interviewers while answering a question, even though it may be asked by one. Most of the interviewers may feel offended and lack of eye contact has been proved one of the major causes of the failure of a job interview. While listening, show your reaction by nodding or making listening sounds as “um” or “yes”.
  • Do not avoid gestures; rather, use them meaningfully.
  • Be energetic externally but remain calm and poised from inside. Do not be self-conscious.
  • Questions on strengths and weaknesses are important to assess your personality. Remember, they can be eliminator questions as well. So, deal with them tactfully.
  • Always be eager to learn and let the interviewers feel that you are ready to update yourself.
  • Follow the basic etiquettes while speaking—do not touch your hair, shake legs or fiddle with your neck tie, pen, earrings, rings or bangles. Lolling in the chair, putting your hands in the pocket or over your mouth, cracking your knuckles, etc., should be strictly avoided because all such non-verbal clues send negative signals.
  • Do not exaggerate your present salary. A good interviewer can estimate your income fairly well.
  • Do a follow up of your interview by sending a short note of thanks within 24 hours reminding them of key points from the interview.
  • Develop a chart for keeping a track of your performance, your strengths and weaknesses during the interview and the areas where you need improvement.

6.3.8.2 Oral Communication Skills

A candidate’s manner of talking affects the first impression created by his/her dress, appearance and body signals. Good oral skills comprise both content as well the way of presentation and experts can judge your personality even by your way of communicating. So, keep in mind the following guidelines to communicate effectively in a job interview.

  • Make use of the tips for developing your interactive skills in English that you have learnt during your preparation sessions.
  • Be a good listener and save yourself from the embarrassing situation of saying ‘pardon’ or ‘sorry’ again and again in addition to help you understand the questions correctly as well as answer them promptly.
  • Speak carefully, clearly and confidently.
  • Your tone matters a lot. Speak in an enthusiastic tone––few things are more disheartening to the interviewers than the lack of enthusiasm. Interest in the candidate is automatically lost. Talk in a natural conversational tone and it should not appear that you have crammed your contents.
  • Be fluent but do not speak fast. Do not use non-word fillers such as “you know”, “like” repeatedly. Check the use of sounds such as “aaaa…..”, “urrr…” “ummm” by giving pauses whenever you feel like uttering such sounds. The occasional pause will make you sound confident plus your habit of thinking before speaking.
  • Do not speak too loud or too soft. Modulate the pitch of your voice. Drop the pitch of your voice on the last syllable of the final sentence of your answer.
  • Speak to the point, be brief and avoid speaking for more than 1 minute continuously. Talking too much may expose your weak points. At the same time, neither give one-word answers, nor interact in monosyllabic words such as “yes” or “no”.
  • Use correct pronunciation. Speak naturally but with correct accent. Artificial accent will never impress the interviewers.
  • Use simple but appropriate words. Do not use jargons or flowery language. Use plain and direct sentences. To describe a trait of your personality, make use of a crisp phrase occasionally, for example, ‘I take failures as a stepping stone towards success.’
  • When asked about your personal strengths, speak about them convincingly. Relate them to the requirement of the job; give examples when and where you have demonstrated them and how you have developed them.
  • Regarding your weak points do not say—‘I’m weak in this…’ say ‘I’ve little difficulty with …’ Choose a weakness that you can disguise as your strength and relate it to your job profile. For instance, you can say: ‘I like to work with a sense of urgency but everyone is not always on the same wavelength.’ Or you can state a weakness that is related to your habit not to your job directly, for example, ‘Sometimes, when the pressure of work is too much, I forget certain things.’ Further, convey what steps you have taken to overcome this problem like ‘I maintain a diary’ or ‘I don’t leave any work pending.’ Best strategy—strengths related to your job—weakness related to day-to-day life.
  • Do not speak against your last company or boss. It conveys a negative picture about you.
  • Be assertive but do not forget that you have to be polite as well. Be tactful but don’t argue. If you disagree, you may say “Sir, I think you’re right/I respect your views but I think a bit differently.”
  • Show your appreciation for the interview, thank for the opportunity given to you to have a fruitful interaction and show your keenness for the position.

6.3.8.3 Knowledge

Along with evaluating your personality and judging your communication skills, interviewers test your knowledge, which is also a key factor in ascertaining your suitability for a particular job. The knowledge part includes your domain knowledge as well as your awareness of things around you. The company is interested in testing your subject knowledge, which shows how serious you have been as a student. Your extent of information of the world around you is an indication of your eagerness to know facts and it definitely gives you an edge over the other candidates. So, read a lot to collect information and brush up your subjects thoroughly. However, it is not possible to know each and every thing. In case you do not know a particular answer, be honest and say ‘I’m sorry, I need to check it, sir. I will be grateful if you kindly tell me the answer.’

6.3.9 Potential Interview Questions

You have to prepare thoroughly for the answers of the probable questions, and this will surely benefit you a lot. Remember, no preparation can anticipate thousands of possible variations on these questions. Furthermore, questions asked in an interview are not many and most of the questions arise from the answers given by the applicant. The important thing is to develop your strategies for each answer. Memorize a few key words that let you recall your answer to the various questions instantly. The following are some of the commonly asked questions in different types of interviews. Go through them and tailor your honest responses relating them to your job profile:

  • Tell us about yourself/What are your major strengths?/What are your major weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to leave your present job?/What is your job profile?
  • Why should we hire you?/How are you different from others?/What makes you unique?
  • You have been leaving jobs frequently, why?/Why have you been out of job for a long time?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?/Who has been your ideal person/role model and why?
  • Describe your ideal company/Why do you want to join our company?
  • How do you pass your free time? What good books have you read recently?
  • Tell me one head line of today’s newspaper.
  • Was there a situation when your work was criticized?/What is the toughest decision you have ever had to make?
  • Give us instances where you have displayed team spirit and leadership qualities?/Are you a leader or a follower?
  • Critically assess yourself on a scale of 1 to 10/How can you improve your career prospects?
  • How do you take failure and success?
  • How long do you want to stay with us?/What will be your future plans if we do not hire you?
  • Are you ready to relocate?/How does your family like your being away on an official trip?
  • Our experience with women has not been good. What do you feel about this?
  • Don’t you feel you are little too old/young for this job?
  • Would you lie for your company?/Can you work under stress?/What makes you angry?
  • Have you ever witnessed a person doing something that you felt was against the company policy? What did you do and why?
  • What has been the most boring assignment for you?/Describe a time you had to work with someone you didn’t like.
  • Tell me about a project you worked on and the requirements changed midstream. What did you do?
  • Tell us honestly about the strengths and weaknesses of the boss of your company.
  • Have you heard anything negative about our company?/On a scale of 1 to 10, rate our company/me as an interviewer.
  • What do you think about euthanasia (mercy killing)/ragging in colleges?
  • If you win Rs. 10 million lottery, what will you do?/Can there be life outside the earth?
  • How do you deal with difficult people or settle disputes?
  • When have you been most creative in your life?
  • How many hours a day do you usually work?/What message would you like to give to the younger generation?
  • How much salary do you expect?

6.3.10 Interviewing the Interviewers

You are usually invited to ask questions at the end of your interview. Even if you are not asked, first seek permission and then satisfy your queries skillfully and politely. Whatever you enquire should be to the point, positive and direct. Do not take liberties. Do not forget that you are not in the driving seat. It is you who is going to be selected. However, such initiative will count in your favour. These are some of the questions that you can ask your prospective employer: Will there be opportunities for training?/If you don’t mind my asking, what is the scope of promotion?/Does the company plan to expand in future?/When will I learn about my status?

6.2.11 Evaluation of Performance

An interview is a judgement of the overall personality of a candidate—a mix of the qualities of intellect, body and spirit. Interviewers use interviews to select an applicant for a specific position and evaluate candidates normally on the following grounds of (a) personal traits, (b) leadership qualities, (c) communication skills and (d) knowledge.

Task

  1. What is a job interview? Discuss the various types of job interviews.
  2. How will you prepare yourself for a job interview?
  3. Write short notes on:
    1. Personality traits required for a job interview.
    2. Techniques of effective communication needed during a job interview.
  4. Write down answers for the following interview questions:
    1. What are your major strengths and weaknesses?
    2. What are your short-term and long-term goals?
    3. Give us instances where you have displayed team spirit and leadership qualities?

Carry out a panel/telephone mock interview with your friends for the post of project manager.

6.4 Professional Presentation

6.4.1 What is a Professional Presentation?

A professional presentation is a kind of an oral talk delivered by a speaker to a group of audience. It is formal in nature, communicated with a specific purpose, usually with the help of some audio/visual aids. Presentations are not as interactive as a GD or an interview as interaction in a presentation takes place in the form of a brief question–answer session in which the speaker satisfies queries of the audience.

In today’s professional and academic environment, oral presentations carry a lot of weight. All of us should know its intricacies as we all have to give presentations at some or the other time during our student and professional life. A good presentation can fetch excellent marks in seminars or project reports, help you obtain your dream job or have a rewarding business deal. You need not be a good orator for giving an effective presentation. What you need is good planning, knowledge, effective delivery techniques, confidence to face the audience and to have know-how of the visual aids.

6.4.2 Types of Professional Presentations

Professional presentations, generally in use, are seminars, presentations during meetings and conferences, research paper presentations, university/institution/department/company profile presentations, product marketing, academic presentations, workshops and recruitment presentations. All the forms of oral presentations are purpose specific as well as audience oriented.

6.4.3 Preparation and Research

In an oral presentation, relevant information has to be conveyed to the audience in a limited time. This needs proper planning, research and preparation. The given guidelines will be useful for the ground work required in making a successful presentation:

6.4.3.1 Plan the Presentation

Plan your presentation well analysing the following peripheral factors:

Audience:    As a presentation should be audience centred, the first step would be collecting details about the audience—their age, gender, profession, attitude, number, needs, expectations and subject knowledge. Try to match your objectives with their outlook.

Purpose of Presentation:    Make sure on which occasion the presentation is to be given; who have organized it and with what purpose. At the same time, ascertain the type of presentation and where it is going to be presented. Are you making your presentation in a seminar, conference or for marketing or launching a product, etc.? Base your presentation according to these requirements.

Time Duration:    You should know when and how long you have to speak. If the organizers have given you only vague information about time and you have the flexibility, try to limit your presentation somewhere around 30 to 45 minutes. It has been found that the attention span of an average audience is not more than 30 to 40 minutes. If you go beyond this, you need to employ some strong techniques to draw their attention. If there are more speakers, you need to know if you are preceding or following them. In both the cases, your approach should be different.

Infrastructure:    You may also inquire whether you would be speaking from behind a dais or from a platform, what type of microphone will be provided and which audio-visual and visual aids will be available.

6.4.3.2 Collect Material

After analysing the above factors, start collecting your material. Examine the subject matter of your presentation, put yourself in the position of your audience, and consider their needs, expectations and possible questions. Brainstorm yourself, jot down relevant points and arrange them systematically. Now, do some research on the topic to have latest information by reading books, visiting libraries, discussing with people and using Internet. Find out illustrations, facts and figures that may assist you in supporting your points. You also need to include humour, quotations and short narratives to mitigate the boredom of hard facts. Think of the ways to make audience identify with you, as you have to address both their mind and heart.

6.4.3.3 Structure the Presentation

First of all, consider the key areas you would like to cover. Prepare an outline of the presentation in a systematic manner. It should be economical and instead of full sentence, write down key phrases, headings and subheadings. Keep in mind that the same outline will help you in making your power point slides. Use note-making skills to organize your material. (See details of note making in the chapter on ‘Note Making and Note taking in Section 8.3 of this book.) Now, structure your data by dividing it into three heads: introduction, body and conclusion.

Introduction:    Well begun is half done. If you are able to attract the listener’s attention with your effective opening, you are on your way to success. Plan your introduction well. Draw the outline of the approach you would like to take for the beginning—asking an interesting question, using an element of surprise through an unexpected or controversial statement (supported by an explanation later), using humour, narrating a very short story or an event, reminding the listeners why they have assembled, thanking the organizers, making use of a catchy quotation, etc. Introduce the topic and talk about its relevance in short. Whatever approach you plan, consider the mood and attitude of the audience first.

Main Body:    The body consists of the major contents of the presentation. As you have researched a lot, you may be tempted to include many details, but exercise restraint and take into account only the main ideas. You may divide your material into points and ideas of primary and secondary importance. Use the former in your notes, and keep the latter in reserve for additional explanations, if required. Write them down clearly, preferably on cards. If you are using a power point or an OHP, mark where they are to be utilized. With every main idea jot down the supporting details, facts, figures, helpful illustrations and anecdotes. Include the element of humour and motivational phrases and place them at intervals. Prepare a few questions that you may ask your listeners to maintain their interest as well as to know if they are getting your point or not. Underline the portions that you want to highlight as well as the parts that may be left out if time is short or you do not receive positive response from the listeners. Structure the notes in the same sequence as you wish to present them before the audience.

Conclusion:    Conclusion is a short summary of the overall presentation. Plan which ideas you would like to repeat at the end so that you may finish your speech with a positive note. Write down the central idea of the presentation. Anticipate the expected queries of the listeners; prepare their satisfactory answers and try to include them in your presentation. You may conclude with some unanswered questions to motivate the listeners to analyze your discussion even later on.

6.4.3.4 Plan your Visual Aids

Visual and audio-visual aids enhance the effectiveness of your presentation. Charts, figures, drawings, maps, pictures, graphs, etc. are traditional visual supports that speakers employ. If you want to use them, indicate them in your notes at proper places. Make handouts of the visuals for distribution before the presentation. These visual aids have their own effect, but for much better impact you may go for a technology-aided presentation, where you can make use of gadgets such as an overhead or an LCD projector. LCD projectors aid you in the projection of a power point presentation in front of the audience. Slides are the best equipped means to communicate various types of visuals, audio, and audio-visual material and they can be conveniently prepared on a computer. Once you have structured your notes, use them to prepare slides for power point presentation. Keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • The opening slide should convey the topic of the presentation along with the name of the presenter, followed by a slide that displays all the major points to be discussed.
  • Make one slide for each important idea with a few supporting points. Leave elaboration for the oral delivery.
  • Use simple and direct language—plain words, familiar phrases and short sentences to convey an idea.
  • Slides should not be ornamental. Pay more attention to arrange your thoughts and contents as well as present them in a clear, organized and uniform manner.
  • If required, include graphs, pictures, maps, etc., in the slides. You can incorporate relevant audios and videos also.
  • Plan your notes to elaborate the points displayed in the slides.

Do not be dependent upon the electronic presentation. Plan the use of technology only as support; otherwise, this may carry a negative impression about you as a speaker. You should also be prepared to carry on with your presentation even in the case of a malfunctioning of the electronic system. Remember technology is a good servant but a bad master.

6.4.3.5 Rehearse your Presentation

Practice makes man perfect. You should rehearse your presentation with and without the visual aids of your already prepared power point presentation. Keep track of time. It is always better to finish a little before you are expected to do. You may practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. You may also record your voice for analysis and listen to it carefully keeping in mind the guidelines given under the heading ‘Communication Skills’. Practice will not only boost your confidence but will also make you aware of the important points that you might have missed.

6.4.4 Effective Delivery

To make an impact on the audience, delivery of the presentation has to be extremely effective. The following factors that influence its quality should be kept in mind during the preparation of the presentation as well as at the time of presenting it.

6.4.4.1 Dress and Appearance

Professional presentation is a formal activity in which the speaker has to present his/her discourse in front of an educated gathering. His/her dress and appearance should be suitable to the occasion as they make their own impact on the audience. Follow all the norms of formal dressing and grooming, dealt with in ‘Group Discussion’, in Section 6.2.9.1.

6.4.4.2 Body Language

When you are on the dais, it is your body that speaks the first. So, be careful about your body signals. The art of public speaking requires its own body language. A born speaker may have good body signals as an inherent quality, but it can always be developed by practice. Get on the dais with a positive, happy and relaxed mind set. Keep the following guidelines in mind while giving a presentation:

  • Your body language should match the nature of your subject. It can be motivating, sober, aggressive, mild or humorous. A clever speaker may use a lot of variations in his/her body language many times during a single presentation.
  • Stand with your legs a little apart, distributing your body weight equally on both the legs. Do not stand behind a lectern continuously, as it may indicate lack of confidence or fear of facing the audience. Move around the platform to maintain listener’s interest, but the movement should not be too much. Stand erect with your chin parallel to the floor to make your vocal cords work freely.
  • Do not deliver your presentation with wooden expressions. Expressions should be cheerful and you should vary them as per the situation. Do not give blank expressions or be lost in your thoughts.
  • Maintain continuous eye contact with listeners to create a positive impact and to get proper feedback from them. In a small gathering, try to rest your eyes on everyone present. With a big audience, you may randomly fix some points around the room. Rest your eyes on someone at each point and then move on to a point that may be placed across the room. Do not give a furtive glance or look at only one side of the gathering. Your notes and visual aids should not distract you from your speech. Keep your eyes at the viewers most of the time.
  • Use relevant gestures. Be careful if you have any habitual gesticulations, for example, shrugging your shoulders, opening your arms, etc. Too much use of any one of them may make you a laughing stalk or divert the attention of the listeners. Employ them economically to emphasize significant points.
  • Avoid irritating mannerisms such as waving a finger, shaking a fist, fiddling with something like a book, papers and pen kept on the lectern or your clothing.
  • Neither fold your arms nor put them in your pockets. Leave them free for gesticulations. If you are using PowerPoint slides, you may use a pointer whenever it is required.

6.4.4.3 Modes of Delivery

Generally, there may be three types of delivering a presentation: first, when you know your subject well and feel confident, you can carry the main points in your memory and utilize your material with suitable visual aids. Second, you may prepare outline notes and take them on cards or papers along with visual support. The third one is to take along the whole script for reading it out. It has been observed that audience find the first one the most impressive but one should go for this type of presentation only if one is confident, has deep knowledge of the subject or has given presentations on the same or similar topic earlier. Otherwise, the safest one would be to have contents in the form of notes and outline, supported with visual aids. The third proposition should be avoided as it detaches you from your listeners. Whatever type of mode of delivery you may choose, it should be prepared thoroughly and researched well. It should have relevance, plainness and conciseness and should generate genuine interest in the audience. Its second reading will further help you at this stage.

6.4.4.4 Communication Skills

You need not be an orator for giving a professional presentation. The flowery language and the rhetoric of an oration do not find any appreciation in a professional presentation. Oral presentation has its own techniques of communication, which can be developed with help of the tips given below:

  • Use short and simple sentences in a language that is understood by the whole audience. You may use specific vocabulary if the listeners are familiar with the subject.
  • Be careful about the words that have different meaning in different context.
  • Avoid clichés. Whether you’re writing or speaking, clichés will weaken the effect of your message. You should use original material as well as expression. For instance, in place of ‘Last but not the least’ you may use ‘in the end’ and ‘part and parcel’ can be replaced by ‘a part of’. If someone else has already said what you are going to say, express it in a different manner. Remember, the audience will not forgive you for being boring.
  • Speak with right pronunciation and commonly understood accent. Use pitch and pace variations—a slower speed and lower volume helps emphasize a point and indicate the end of a major idea. Increase in pitch may assist in motivating the viewers or making new points. Tone variations are necessary to maintain listeners’ interest.
  • Address the gathering using pauses at the right time as pauses are an essential aspect of public speaking. You may begin your discourse with a pause. Use it to create suspense, state important statements, facts, cite quotations or a humour, to take breath, to put your ideas in order for the next point or to let the listeners take in what you have said. You can also indicate a pause by sipping water or changing your position.
  • Stage fright is normal, but it has to be controlled as it affects your overall performance. If you are well prepared and your thought process is crystal clear, you can cope up with your stage fear. To control the pre-speech nervousness, remain calm, talk freely, and if possible, mix up with the crowd. Go with a positive mindset and do not let baseless apprehensions grip you.

6.4.4.5 Check the Equipments

Before your presentation, see that the aids you are going to use—microphone, computer, laptop, slide projector, OHP or an LCD projector, are in good working condition. Make sure that your visual material as well as the supporting aids is arranged in the right sequence. Prefer a clip or a portable microphone, if available, as they give you freedom of movement. In case of a sudden malfunctioning of a system, do not get panicked or feel guilty, call a technician. Rest assured that the audience knows that such breakdowns can occur any time. Carry on with your presentation without the visual aids. You may continue in the absence of microphone, if the gathering is not large.

6.4.5 Audience Questions

Before you begin your speech, let the audience know that you are willing to satisfy their queries. Make sure that the questions asked are clearly heard by the rest of the listeners. You may also repeat the query, which will give you an extra time to think for your answer. Give your response energetically and it has to go to all the listeners. It should not appear that you are trying to avoid the matter. If you do not know an answer, admit it and convey that you will let the questioner know the answer later. In case, a member objects or confronts you, do not get offended or give similar signals. Tackle the situation calmly. If the problem persists, request the member not to get into a private discussion, break the eye contact and address the rest of the audience.

Task

Answer the following questions:

  1. What is a professional presentation and how is it different from a speech?
  2. How will you prepare a presentation seminar to be delivered in near future?
  3. Discuss the features of an effective delivery of a professional presentation.
  4. Prepare presentations on the following topics and give mock presentations in front of a friend or a mirror:
    1. Developing oral communication in English is not an impossible task
    2. Economic recession and India
    3. Mobile phones