SARASOTA, Fla. (May 5, 2017) – USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Dr. Wilma Davidson is more than a wordsmith. The professional and technical communications instructor dishes out presentation and business writing advice to executives globally: Keep it simple. Get to the point. Be clear when writing emails, making a PowerPoint presentation or apprising board members.
Most recently, she dispensed her insights at a Brazilian company three hours northwest of Sao Paulo. For the better part of week in late March, she met with top-tier executives after board members raised concerns about their meandering, long-winded and hard-to-follow presentations. The board asked for Dr. Davidson’s help to sharpen the executives’ presentation skills.
“Part of the task was that they needed to stay on topic and oftentimes would go off-topic,” she said.
Corralling the executives back to the point proved harder than it might seem, though. First, she needed to overcome a cultural obstacle summed up by one executive, who offered, “What do you expect? We’re Brazilian. We love to talk.”
Then she needed to get the team to understand that a data dump alone does not make a presentation.
The main problem, she explained, was one she’s encountered often at corporations from Shanghai to London, New York and Los Angeles, that the executives wanted to include everything, often talking to impress rather than conveying relevant and meaningful information to the directors.
Presenters hopped from one topic to the next, raising scores of issues but leaving board members in the dark about their main points and, more importantly, which issues needed the most attention.
To help them identify the relevant issues, Davidson started with a group of 10 senior-level executives then worked with the managers who provided data to the senior team.
After the workshops, she scheduled one-on-one sessions to cover individual public-speaking needs and provide guidance for upcoming board presentations.
“I counseled them to focus on what’s affecting the business, to narrow it down,” she said. “I asked them, ‘What are three issues affecting the business today that we need to do something about?’”
She also advised that they make their slide presentations “less busy,” to stick to the point and not dwell too long on any one frame: “In the world of business you need to respect your audience’s time by limiting the number of slides you use and the amount of information on them.
“Most of what I did was to help them tell their story simply with the right analogies that the audience can understand and with recommendations on what to do and to fix what’s not working,” she said. “English is the language of business over the globe, and though these executives were fluent in it, sometimes they struggled with the idioms known and used in American corporations.”
Dr. Davidson travels to companies about a half-dozen times a year, with most of those trips within the United States. She says the corporate visits inform her academic classes and vice versa. Wherever she goes, however, she seems to encounter similar communication issues.
“I see it everywhere, professionals not being able to get to the point, to bottom-line their message, so in the end they’re giving a presentation about everything, which turns out to be a presentation about nothing,” she said.
“The real art of a presentation is to be able to make your point memorable.”
Academics from around the world to visit USFSM
USF Sarasota-Manatee is no stranger to conferences that draw visitors nationally, but two upcoming back-to-back conferences may set a record for global appeal, with academics and graduate students from two dozen countries expected.
The first event, the Global Conference on Education and Research (GLOCER), scheduled May 22-25, will focus on teaching methods and research. The second, the Graduate Student Research Conference in Business and Economics, May 25-26, is concerned with business practices and economic theory.
Between the two, about 200 academics and graduate students are anticipated representing 40 institutions in 24 countries, co-organizer Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu said.
“It’s definitely the biggest conference I’ve ever organized,” he said.
Dr. Cobanoglu, McKibbon Endowed Chair and director of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation at USFSM, planned the events with Dr. Waynne James, a professor of adult education at the College of Education at USF in Tampa, starting a year ago.
He also called on USFSM students to help out, such as graduate student Akash Mehta. Mehta, seeking a master’s degree in hospitality management and technology, called the experience planning the conferences enjoyable and instructive.
“This is something that I want to do as a career, so overall it’s very exciting,” he said.
The Association of North America Higher Education International (ANAHEI) has helped get the word out and USF and USFSM faculty issued calls for papers to attract scholars, including from overseas.
Although it’s not unusual for academics to travel abroad for conferences, it’s rare for graduate students to present their research outside their home institutions, much less at a different nation.
However, the organizers wanted to create venue for both.
“My hope is that these conferences create an atmosphere for interdisciplinary cooperation and research ideas,” Dr. Cobanoglu said. “I also hope that we can network to learn more about each other.”
Among the presentations at GLOCER will be studies on community engagement, emotional intelligence in adult learners, and the impacts of technology in workforce training at community colleges, plus dozens of more. For information, visit conference.anahei.org/schedule/.
Keynote speakers include Dr. Terry Osborn, interim regional chancellor at USFSM, and Dr. Roger Brindley, who leads USF World, which oversees system-wide global engagement for USF.
Dr. Karen Holbrook, senior advisor to the system president, will serve as a keynote speaker at the Graduate Student Research Conference. To learn more, visit gradconference.org/schedule/.
Hughes wins accolades for support of veterans
Kudos to Todd Hughes. USFSM’s veteran services administrator was honored May 3 by Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the Suncoast for supporting veterans and veterans’ causes.
“This is extremely humbling as I do this out of love for my brothers and sisters and never seek recognition,” Hughes said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of others.”
The award was presented during a banquet attended by Dr. Terry Osborn, interim chancellor at USFSM, and Dr. Larry Braue, director of veteran success for the USF System.
Hughes learned of the award, a plaque, during a phone call in late March. He didn’t know he was even nominated for it.
“There are so many people doing some much more than me, so I was really surprised,” he said.
Careers Services seeking students for Orlando job fair
USFSM’s Career Services office is chartering vans for the May 9 (Tuesday) statewide job fair at the CFE Arena in Orlando. More than 150 employers are expected to present job and internship opportunities.
About a dozen students are signed up so far, but the office is seeking more students and alumni to attend. The plan is to meet at 7:15 a.m. in the rotunda. Dress in business attire and bring several copies of your resume.
To reserve a seat, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/annual-statewide-job-fair-tickets-33470208294.