If the prospect of making a business presentation sends you into a cold sweat, DePaul University’s D. Joel Whalen, a professor of marketing, has the cure.
Whalen, an internationally recognized business communications expert, recently wrote The Professional Communications Toolkit (Sage Books, 2006), a how-to book designed to help professionals become more effective communicators — a critical skill for business success.
The book begins with a science-based debunking of common foolish business communication practices in the 21st century. It then proceeds to offer page after page of techniques to help both the novice speaker and the stage-savvy pro alike. Whalen touches on skills covering the range of communications venues from one-on-one business conversations to small staff presentations to keynote addresses. Technology is covered with advice for producing clear, high-impact PowerPoint presentations, and sending response-generating e-mails and voice-mail messages.
“The biggest single barrier to effective communication is speech anxiety. It’s often rated by business people as their greatest fear,” Whalen says. In clean, jargon-free language, the book lays out speech anxiety’s causes and symptoms, then provides proven methods for managing it, including mind-body techniques. “Once people recognize the source of their anxiety and learn techniques for controlling it, they are able to become more confident, focused and effective speakers,” says Whalen.
Some examples: fast-acting techniques to manage anxiety, such as calm-down breathing, and how to transform feelings of fear into powerful personal energy. For those who suffer from more severe anxiety, a special section by Corey Goldstein, M.D., associate clinical director of the Treatment Research Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, offers medical remedies for both temporary anxiety such as that caused by a big keynote speech, as well as chronic daily communication anxiety that can keep talented people from succeeding.