Friday, February 05, 2016

The weekend read

Did this week feel like a long walk off a short pier, communicators? Or did you focus on the view ahead: The weekend? Take advantage of the start of the weekend to dive into my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Man overboard:
Swim further out: Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels; tell your colleagues to put this blog in their feeds; sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Riza Nugraha)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Take charge of your own communications training. Here's why.

Harvard Business Review's recent article, Plan your professional development for the year, has some great suggestions--but the best one is in the headline. As a speaker coach and media trainer, I can tell you that it's the planning that's most often missing in bringing professionals' skills up to a higher level.

How can I tell? The random nature of some of my gigs. I'll be in a company training one group, and the group next to them says, "Hey, we need training, too." Or I get calls at the very end of your budget cycle, when you realize you're about to leave training money on the table. Neither situation leads to an ideal start for training. And I am sometimes called to do "corrective" training for executives whose presentation and speaking skills have become a performance issue...yet no one offered them training before it became a problem.

Seth Godin tackled recently the return on investment for training, and why so many companies are missing out on those returns:
The short-sighted organization decides it's 'saving money' by cutting back training. After all, the short-term thinking goes, what's the point of training people if they're only going to leave. (I'd point out the converse of this--what's the danger of not training the people who stay?) 
It's tempting to nod in agreement at these obvious cases (or the similar case of getting, or not getting, a great new job based on how skilled you've trained yourself to be--again, a huge cliff and difference in return). What's not so easy is to take responsibility for our own training.
We've long passed the point where society and our organization are taking responsibility for what we know and how we approach problems. We need to own it for ourselves.
That goes double for communications pros, who often act like the shoemaker's children, securing training for everyone but themselves. While I'm flattered by the number of comms pros who tell me "Your blogs are my professional development," there's yet more you can do to improve your skills.

So there you have it: You're going to have to be in charge of going out and getting your own training and professional development. On The Eloquent Woman blog, I offered speakers a memo to send to the boss with 8 reasons why you need speaker training, and you can adapt it for whatever else you're seeking to develop as a skill. If your workplace doesn't offer such training, ask your professional membership groups what they offer, and take advantage of it. If you're assuming a new leadership role--president of a volunteer group, chair of a conference, keynote speaker--ask whether training is available to help you make the most of that new role. Even if you're an entrepreneur, you need to take this action. (I shared 6 things I do for professional development here.) But ask, and act. You'll have so many more advantages if you do.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Laurie Sullivan)

Friday, January 29, 2016

The weekend read

Two lumps of coal and a carrot: That's what's left after you faced the week, communicators. Time to assemble those parts into a jolly snowman called the weekend, using these critical tools: my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here just for you. Snow use pretending you aren't glad it's Friday:
Pile on the snow: Buy my ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels; tell your colleagues to put this blog in their feeds; sign up for my free monthly newsletter, or let me know how we can work together in 2016 with an email to eloquentwoman at

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Jason Bolonski)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Public opinion surveys and cellphones: A tipping point?

The Pew Research Center just announced it will conduct more survey interviews by cellphone in 2016, as much as 75 percent of its interviews. And depending on how much you know about cellphones and public opinion surveys, that's either one kind of surprise--can they do that?--or another--weren't they already doing that?

Pew Research does a good job answering those questions, which more or less share an answer: You can call cellphones, but it's difficult and expensive to do so, sometimes doubling the cost of the interview process. It used to be that sampling homes with no landline was the biggest hurdle in accurate public opinion surveys; now that's still true, but with a cellphone to complicate things. Here's how Pew describes that:
Cellphone-only individuals are considerably younger than people with a landline. They tend to have less education and lower incomes than people with a landline. They are also more likely to be Hispanic and to live in urban areas. For this reason, excluding cellphones from a poll – or not including enough of them – would provide a sample that is not representative of all U.S. adults.
So if your company or organization cares about audience data in those populations--or just more accurate aggregate findings for U.S. adults--this is good news.

I think it's essential for communications pros to not only share and use public opinion data in their work, but to understand more about how these data are gathered, so methodology changes of this type are must-knows. I also love the reminders in this recent post, A Psephologist's Lament, which explains why sample size and margins of error may not be the significant indicators they appear to be:
A word of caution. Don't be thrown by sample size and the margin of error. For example, the margin of error is a statistical concept that largely relates to the numbers of people interviewed. It is often misunderstood in that it is not really an error at all but the acceptable range that poll findings would fall within had you interviewed the entire population. Who you interview, how you interview them, and how you model your data are more significant indicators of quality than the number of people in a poll. Put it this way, if you have a badly constructed sample, the more people you interview the more inaccurate your results will be. The errors in your data will multiply while the margin of error will shrink making the poll appear more precise and rigorous.
I'll be sharing that kind of thinking with two groups of clients I'm working with this month, starting with last week's workshop on Communicating with Non-Scientists: Audiences and Stakeholders for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Science & Technology Policy Fellows, scientists who come from all over the U.S. to work in Washington in congressional and federal offices needing science advisement. In that session, I shared lots of sources and findings from opinion research on non-scientist public audiences--and encouraged the Fellows to do the same, since so many of them work in agencies that hold treasure troves of such data. And I'll be presenting a review of public opinion on human-computer interaction to a board committee of SIGCHI, a special-interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery, with a special focus on audience data that may be useful in developing public messaging. In both cases, understanding more about the methodology in public opinion research helps these groups think through how useful--or not--it can be as a tool in public communication.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Garry Knight)