We can all do with a little structure…

There are some events happening locally (@TedXBuffalo, @43North) that have got me wanting to post a few simple thoughts on public speaking.

I’ve been working on public speaking skills with some really diverse, amazing local professionals lately and have found that our time seems to focus on two – rather broad – areas: delivery and presentation structure.

Just a few thoughts on structure (I’ll dive into delivery in my next post!):

  • It may sound elementary, but having a clear intro, body and conclusion is fundamental to message clarity. Even something as short/simple as an “elevator pitch” (are these trite nowadays?) can benefit from this sort of organization. If you haven’t realized, people aren’t always great audible learners; like children, they don’t know it but they crave structure.


  • Having a purpose is key. I’m not trying to get all existential here, I’m simply reminding you how crucial it is to tell people what the heck they’re about to hear! This is one of the most overlooked components of a speech I encounter. When I teach Public Speaking I will often ask the audience to identify the purpose upon completion of a speech. You can’t believe how often they get it wrong! Having a purpose statement in the beginning of your presentation allows everyone to be on the same page and allows the audience to know what to listen for.


  • For any presentation over a few minutes, use the following musical analogy (for you artsy folks). Think of your favorite musical, perhaps Lion King or Phantom of the Opera. What do you always hear in the beginning? The overture, which consists of snippets of songs that you’ll hear throughout the show. Why do we like this? Because we’re able to recognize those songs once we hear them again a half hour later. It gives us a warm sense of familiarization and that appeals to both the cognitive (thinking) and emotional parts of our brain. Doing the same in the introduction of your speech (we call this a preview) will produce the same effect. Tell the audience the main things they’re about to hear. Of course, this leads to my last point (for now) on structure. (By the way, this last sentence is a great example of using a connective to smoothly transition between main points, another essential structual element in public speaking.


  • Have 2-4 distinct main points in the body of your speech and stick to them. One main point and your presentation is too short and lacks substance. More than four (and even four is playing with fire in my opinion) and you risk losing cognitive attention. Additionally, main points should be clearly independent of one another and you should be able to spend a relatively equal amount of time on each. If you find you’re lacking in either of these two areas, chances are you can combine or parse out the point(s).

I’ll continue to post more public speaking thoughts here (assuming you find them relevant and helpful), as well as other work beneficial/relevant to professional development, so check back!


If you can’t beat ’em…

Still haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon? Chances are it’s still affecting your business!

Check out this article from the MIT Sloan Management Review: Harnessing the Power of the Oh-So-Social Web


The authors say the first step is to admit that consumers are taking power and that corporations are not in control (scary, I know!). Once you’ve come to terms with this, the potential benefits of properly utilizing social media are numerous:

  • Let your customers be vehicles for marketing messages
  • Take advantage of easy access to customer feedback
  • Tap into social media’s ability to perform as a direct sales application
  • Utilize the convenience of social media as an online customer support application
  • Allow employees to connect and share information with each other (employee engagement, anyone??)


By: Brynne Harrison, Program Coordinator  

5 Business and Career Development Facts That Will Spook You This Halloween

5 Business and Career Development Facts
That Will Spook You This Halloween

The five most important competencies today are self-motivation/discipline (44%), effective communication (40%), learning ability (29%) self-awareness (26%) and adaptability/versatility (22%).
Nearly 80% of current college students say they’re “very” or “completely” prepared to put their organization skills to work, just 54% of hiring managers agree.

71% of the workforce in America is actively disengaged.  This costs U.S. organizations $300 Billion annually.

For employees, the #1 day-to-day motivator, and by a huge margin, is “making progress in meaningful work.”

80% of companies don’t care about company culture.
Do you?


By: Blake Carbone, Coordinator

Top HR Tech Trends in 2014

Top HR Tech Trends in 2014
By: Stephanie Cattarin, Executive Director

Recently, in Chicago, the Society for Human Resource Management held their annual conference educating Senior-Level HR professionals on the latest topics and trends in the industry.  Forbes.com was able to get a word from one of the conference panelists, Paul Belliveau, managing director at AVANCÉ – Human Capital Management Advisors and member of SHRM’s, Technology and HR Management Expertise Panel, “The role of technology is that of an enabler, allowing HR to live out its strategies and support the business.”

  1. HR data is secure in the cloud. When it’s done right, cloud is just as secure as onsite, on-premise software solutions.
  2. Gamification is here to stay. Especially for millennials, gamification is the best  way for employers to communicate, engage, train, attract, and retain top talent.
  3. Integrated social media will result in better communication and collaboration.Software that embeds social media capabilities across daily processes, (as opposed to separate platforms), with internal and external colleagues is the optimal collaborative tool.
  4. Virtualization and globalization are transforming  the workplace. Remote working arrangements will continue to proliferate expanding outside country boundaries forcing       employers to be more innovative in how they use collaboration tools.
  5. Cross-functional innovation teams will become the norm to improve creativity, productivity, and quality. HR needs to collaborate with other departments to see what’s working, and apply those  best practices to help achieve HR goals.
  6. Cloud and business process outsourcing support business goals by reducing infrastructure costs while freeing up HR resources for strategic innovation.
  7. Mobile tools become even more prevalent from senior management through hourly workers. Anywhere, anytime access to information speeds up recruiting, boosts productivity,  and increases efficiencies that benefit not just employees but suppliers  and customers.
  8. HR needs to harness and analyze Big-Data for business performance results. With the right information, companies  can quantify the impact HR has on business performance, forecast       workforce demands near and long term, identify critical skills gaps,  explore different scenarios, and develop people strategies to meet the  needs of the company in a fast-changing global environment.
  9. Integration, consolidation, and “suite” solutions  will increase the interoperability of systems, databases, and tools. HR can make  more informed decisions about workforce management based on quality data sets from across the entire company.
  10. Global, standardized definitions for HR terminology, metrics, data models, and systems will emerge  as technology unites HR professionals worldwide.
  11. Read the full article on Forbes.com, “Top 10 HR Technology Trends For 2014″

Chat with an Instructor: Preparing for your college application

By: Brynne (BRE-in) Harrison, Program Coordinator

Back-to-school commercials already? Really? Suppose it’s that time again. For the new high school seniors it’s an especially important year with thoughts of post-high school plans. The CPD reached out to our college test prep instructor, Melissa Hooper, with some important questions about preparing for college as a high school senior:

CPD: Who should take the SAT and when should it be taken?

MH: The SAT is currently required by more than 80% of four year colleges! Chances are the college you are interested in requires that you take the SAT. If you’re like most students you’ll take the test for the first time in your junior year and a second, or even third time, again in the spring of junior year or in the fall of your senior year. You may want to begin testing early so you have more test dates available if you are not satisfied with your score.   

CPD: What is a perfect SAT score?

MH: A perfect SAT score is the one that gets you into the college of your choice.  A quick check of a college admission’s website page will reveal if the school requires SAT scores and what score you should be aiming for. The middle 50 percent for first-year students accepted to Canisius College in fall 2011 had an SAT Combined Score (Math & Critical Reading) of 1110.

CPD: What’s the most common misconception about the SAT? 

MH: The SAT is a test of intelligence. Truth is your SAT scores reflect how good you are at taking the SAT and how much time you spend preparing. While it is true a smart student with lots of knowledge will hopefully do well on the SAT, intelligence can grow through hard work. Your first step in succeeding on the SAT is test preparation. 

CPD: Should students consider taking the ACT? Why? Who?

MH: Some colleges actually prefer ACT scores over SAT scores, while others want both. The ACT is a different test, not better or easier. While the SAT tries to assess innate ability and test-taking skills, the ACT strives to assess the knowledge you have acquired, meaning that the test focuses on subjects and skills taught in high school. If you are better at one test, it should become evident after some practice. Pick the test you feel more comfortable with and put your efforts into studying for that test. 

CPD: How much time should you spend on your college admissions essay? Is it really that important?

MH: For some colleges, the admissions essay is the most important part of your application. Admissions committees use it to get to know the individual behind the test scores and the grade point average. You should think of your essay as a chance to show yourself off. Admissions committees also use the essay to determine how well you write because good writing skills are important for success in college. Your essay is an opportunity to prove that you are an interesting person and that you can write well. It should not be written in a hurry or at the last minute.

Check out Melissa’s test prep and admissions essay prep classes here.

8 Essential Tips To A Successful College Application

8 Essential Tips To A Successful College Application
By: Blake Carbone, Coordinator

So there you are, sitting at your desk, twiddling your thumbs while staring at the blank college application in front of you.  You’ve been asking yourself the same questions over and over in the last 20 minutes; Where do I begin? Who will write a recommendation  for me?  What if my SAT or ACT exam scores aren’t good enough?  Am I involved in enough activities and organizations?  What should I write my essay on?

Slow down and take a deep breath!  In the article, “Navigating the College Application Process” College Recruiter for Troy University in Alabama, Staci Hutto shares 8 tips on creating a successful college application package.  Here you will get helpful hints from the perspective of an Admissions Officer and learn exactly what they are looking for when reviewing hundreds, if not thousands, of applications.

Hutto recommends starting early and breaking the process down into more manageable parts,

1.  Organization
2.  Deadlines
3.  Transcripts
4.  Standardized Test Scores
5.  Volunteer and Extracurricular Activities
6.  Essays
7.  Letters of Recommendation
8.  Ask for Help

Autonomy Pushes Teams Forward


Autonomy Pushes Teams Forward
By: Blake Carbone, Coordinator

Today’s online edition of Business Insider’s, Instant MBA, Harvard Business professor, Teresa Amabile shares 3 things that spark creativity.

“Creativity cannot exist without autonomy, resources and time.”

Amabile believes that this “creativity trifecta” is essential in the creation to some of the best ideas.  If managers give employees the time and space to pursue special projects, professional training and development or education, they will see larger returns (and I’m not just talking about the money!).  It not only lowers employee turnover but it can also lead to increased productivity and higher customer satisfaction.

For further reading: Learn how Google takes a similar management approach with their “20 percent time” philosophy in the New York Times article, “The Google Way: Give Engineers Room.”