high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

An HR presentation is only as good as its dueling banjos

As a supposed Master of Human Resources, one could assume that I have a relatively extensive knowledge of the Human Resources field, and furthermore, that I would hold strong opinions about certain aspects of Human Resources.  While the first of these two points is highly disputable, the second is more sure.  I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I have strong opinions about many aspects of Human Resources, and will not hesitate to hold forth on those opinions if they should be solicited.  Most of them go something like "You don't need a Human Resources degree to figure that out."

Arriving late? What part of 'high noon' didn't
you understand?
However, there are some Human Resources practices and trends where my perspective could more easily be characterized as positive or negative.  In the "negative" category are things like resumes, and the 40-hour workweek, and team building.  These things all warrant disdain, skepticism, and scorn.  If I had enough pull in the Human Resources community to make a change as momentous as enacting a shorter workweek, or had the genius to develop a team building activity that actually resulted in a group of individuals bound together in one common purpose, I would be very proud.  And rich.  And I'd probably put both accomplishments on my resume.

On the other hand, there truly are many "positive" concepts within Human Resources, and one of these is flex time.  For those not familiar with the idea, flex time is easy to understand.  Basically, you can come into work later than others, or leave work earlier than others, or work a few hours on weekends, or generally do whatever you want in terms of hours as long as the work gets done.  In other words, you can have that less-than-40-hour workweek, and only feel like you're cheating the system a little bit.  It's a great arrangement, and runs contrary to the traditional idea of 8-5 workdays.  Certainly there is still a place for standard shifts of 7:00-3:00, 3:00-11:00, and 11:00-7:00, as some industries must operate on strict schedules, but for the average office worker, flex time is the gift that keeps on giving.  Workers are more productive, happier, have more control over their lives, and to top it all off, the common phrase "I'm going to flex my time today" is, in some inexplicable way, much more palatable than other phrases like "We're creating an environment of empowerment."  Probably because it doesn't smack of highly processed bullshit.

I bring all this up because today (Sunday), I'm flexing my time!  With bulging biceps, rippling triceps, and glistening lats, my time is looking good today.  The way I'm flexing my time is by putting in a couple hours of work today to prepare for work tomorrow.  And no, before you blurt out "You cheater," I'm not just pretending to flex my time and instead writing this blog post.  I did a little bit of work this morning, and will do a little more tonight, and wouldn't stoop so low as to take credit for this leisure time in-between.

Although, I could be swayed into thinking that this blog post constitutes some kind of 'educational activity' related to HR....

My human resources tried to cheat me at poker, so I killed
them all.
Anyway, my work for today is to prep for a little presentation I have at work tomorrow.  I've never been someone who's been able to shoot from the hip when it comes to speaking in front of a group.  Because when I do shoot from the hip, metaphorically speaking, there ends up being a some poor maid, complete with Old West bonnet, lying in a pool of blood.  When it comes to public speaking, I'm more of a rifleman.  Prepared, precise, deadly.  My methods do not 'wow' the townsfolk standing around, but rather earn their immediate respect as they realize that somebody, somewhere, has just put an end to their plight, because the baddie who was holding them captive a moment ago is now gaping down at the wound gushing blood from his chest with a shocked look on his face.

Perhaps I went too far with that illustration.

Being a rifleman does not prevent you from wearing spurs if you'd like.

But seriously, speaking in front of a group can be enjoyable and very rewarding.  You just have to know yourself and prepare (or not prepare) accordingly.  Here are a few keys to public speaking that I've picked up over the years:

What do you mean you want to see my resume? Can't you
see my badge?
  • Don't try to eliminate feelings of being nervous.  Instead, accept the fact that you will be a bit nervous, and just deal with it.  Leading up to the speaking engagement, you will be wasting your time if you are trying all kinds of tricks to make yourself not feel nervous.  Because the tricks are all temporary fixes, and as soon as the trick wears off, you go back to feeling nervous.  Only now it's worse, because you're panicked that your trick did not have the desired result.  Accept it, deal with it.  Thou art a rifleman.
  • Go slowly.  This is probably the most important consideration starting out.  You'll naturally find a groove once you get going, but rushing through the start doesn't allow your mind to keep up, and suddenly you're tumbling over your words and forgetting the main points you wanted to make.  Feel free to pause and don't worry about filling the silence.  It's like taking aim.
  • Know your shit.  This doesn't mean you have to know it all, but you can't be going in thinking that you know it 'well enough.'  A good way to make sure you really do know enough is to anticipate questions that will be asked and make sure you can answer them.  Have a few go-to points that anchor the rest of your presentation so that you can return to them when all else fails.  In other words, survey the town ahead of time, know the best angle for your shot, and know when the enemy is going to arrive.
  • Tell anecdotes.  Don't go overboard, but people do appreciate the personal touch, and it can really bring a point home when you talk about your own experience.  Humor is an extremely valuable tool, and a well-placed humorous comment can get people interested, help the audience remember what's being said, and further reduce that nervousness mentioned earlier.  Inserting a few mild self-criticisms with a smile and chuckle never hurts either, because then people don't see you as an intimidating expert or a stuffed suit.  This all would be akin to smiling in grim satisfaction after you make your shot, and quietly saying to yourself "Got you, you son of a bitch!"
  • Remember the goal.  If you've accomplished all the preceding points, then you're probably well on your way to a solid presentation, and you're even having fun doing it.  But don't let it go to your head and start going over the top.  The purpose of the presentation should be clearly defined in your mind, and you should stick to it.  Just get your points across, don't try to impress everybody with your brilliance.  You can throw it all away if you try to go too heavy on the 'wow' and don't ensure you've done what you came to do.  This would be like turning your gun on the townsfolk and firing at will as you advance out of your hiding spot, whooping and shouting as you create a bloodbath of the citizenry, while the swarthy outlaw, who has only taken a wound in his thigh, struggles back to his feet and escapes down an alley.
The best part about the whole thing is that after a good presentation you really feel like you've accomplished something.  Responding to a bunch of emails, analyzing some data, going to a meeting - all things that are questionable when it comes to a feeling of accomplishment.  But a well-delivered presentation makes for a worthwhile workday.

And might I say, what better way to reward yourself than by cutting out an hour or two early?  After all, you put in the prep time on Sunday.  And really, who is going to stop a person wearing spurs?

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