Good Grammar Matters

Using good grammar matters in your writing, and it matters in your speech.  Poor grammar will have a limiting effect on your career, and do so in a way that you may never know why you are not progressing.  Being able to communicate effectively requires you to understand and use good grammar in all forms of communication.

For more on this check out the video below:

10 Ways Successful People Work with People They Don’t Like

Reposted from:

For productive and effective work, there’s nothing like collaboration with people you already like and respect—people you trust and know you can work well with. Eventually, though, it will likely fall upon you to work with someone you just don’t like. If you try to get out of it you only end up looking bad. That’s why learning to collaborate successfully with people you dislike is such a valuable skill.

Here are some starting points—try them out on your nemesis in small-scale situations so you’ll be prepared when you’re assigned to a major project together.


Tasks Which Define Success (TWDS)

There are some tasks which will make the difference between success and failure at home, work, and life in general.  These are the Tasks Which Define Success.  Do those tasks well and success is assured, fail to do these tasks or do them poorly and you may be very busy, but not very successful.

Check out the short video below for more on this:

Team Projects

Team Projects are often the most dreaded part of a course. While not all our courses include a Team Project, there are still several which do. So, the question is, “What can I do, personally, to make the team experience a positive one (and also get a good grade)?”  I’m glad you asked. Here are several ideas for improving the outcome of your team project:

  1. Make sure you complete the Team Covenant the first meeting of your team. This can be found on Blazenet under StudentLife/Services in the Documents. While completing this may take a few minutes, the value comes in having everyone on the same page – especially when it seems like some in the group are dropping the ball. Calling out those who aren’t complying with the Covenant expectations may be necessary, but it is much easier if the Covenant exists
  2. Make sure everyone has a copy of the Team Evaluation rubric. This can be found in the same place on Blazenet. The important thing here is to make clear to everyone up front that you are going to be brutally honest in completing this form at the end of the project.
  3. Do your best to stay engaged in the Project, completing the expectations assigned to you. Don’t hesitate to check in with other team members on their progress.
  4. I HIGHLY recommend you use either a Google Doc and/or Google Slides for your project and include the Instructor.  Both of these are free, and it can easily be determined who contributed and how much they contributed.  The team leader should start the Document/Slides and then share it with the rest of the team members.  That way you can all work from different locations at the same time on the same presentation or document. Both also have chat capabilities built in so you can “talk” in real time about the project.
  5. You may not have tried it before, but Canvas has a Zoom link on the left panel which can be used for video conferencing and screen sharing. This means you don’t have to set up another time to get together, you can video conference. This is a simple product and it works great – you can also record the session to further prove who participated and who didn’t. Just identify who will be setting up the meetings.

Team projects, when done effectively, can enhance your knowledge and skills. If you incorporate group software like I describe above it can also make you more valuable at work.

Ponder BEFORE Responding

A knee jerk response to an offending statement has been the source of many a leader’s downfall. It can label you as emotional and shows lack of good judgement. If you are responding to an offensive statement or challenging email: DON’T, at least until you have some time to ponder the offensive challenge. Simply saying, “ “I need some time to consider what you’ve said,” will give you the time to make a more considered response.   Check out the video below:


Presentation Tips, pt. 2

Last time I shared with you some tips about speaking in public which should help as you make your presentations in class, and throughout the rest of your life. I know from personal experience that the more presentations you make, the more confident you will feel. There are a couple of specifics I want to mention in this post.

First, there is a presentation rubric, found in Student Live/Services – Adult and Graduate under forms. I am including it below. The reason I include it is because if you study the rubric before you even start building your presentation, you are more likely to hit the target points, which will give you a better presentation overall, and a better grade.  Keep in mind your Instructor may be using a different rubric, SO ALWAYS ASK  about how you will be graded as soon as the assignment is made:

Second, your presentation aid, probably Powerpoint or Google slides, does make a difference.  In the last post, there was a point which shared the 10/20/30 rule.  This rule of thumb indicates that you should try to use no more than 10 slides for a 20-minute presentation with a font size of 30. This is a good practice to follow. Always try to use images instead of words on your slide so your audience won’t spend their time reading the slide. Also, NEVER just read your slides. Yes, you will read some SHORT bulleted points, but by and large, your comments should augment the slide, not parrot it.  Remember, if printing handouts from your powerpoint, choose the option from the print screen to print “handouts” three to a page with a space for taking notes. This is faster and uses less paper.

Hope you find this useful.


Dr. Upchurch


When communicating by email

When communicating by email to anyone (work, family, friends, colleagues, etc.), ALWAYS re-read the email at least once before you sent it.  If it is particularly important or going to a supervisor or a large group, read it over several times, at least one of which is out loud. When you read your email out loud you will get a better sense of the tone of voice and more easily catch grammatical errors.  Check out the video below:

Presentation Tips – pt. 1

OK, you’ve been assigned to make a presentation in class. It might be a solo presentation or as part of a group, either way, it still means standing up in front of your classmates and the Instructor and talking. I’m going to make this post in two parts. The first part, which I will cover below will discuss the speaking part.

Fear of public speaking is one of the most universal fears that we have.  There are a few things you can do to make your presentation a success, regardless of your experience.

  1.  Almost everyone feels nervous just before starting – this is normal, you won’t die and the nervous feeling usually fades within 60 seconds of starting.  Don’t let the butterflies get the better of you.
  2.  Take some deep breaths just before starting your presentation, this oxygenates your blood and helps your brain, which hopefully will help you get focused and get through those first 60 seconds.
  3.  Know your material.  This can’t be emphasized enough.  Winging it will almost always allow for distractions and usually, it is obvious to your audience that you aren’t prepared.  You can only blow smoke for so long before it becomes apparent that you don’t know what you are talking about.  Know your material THOROUGHLY.  Go over it repeatedly until you can deliver the information from a knowledge base, then if you get distracted it will be easier to get back on track.
  4.  Rotate your eye contact every 2-7 seconds and look people directly in the eyes.  You will find this is a powerful method to build audience engagement.  It also lowers your own anxiety as you will be directing your comments at one person instead of thinking about the larger audience.  Pay special attention to your supervisor if there is one present.  Don’t forget the back of the room or the wings.
  5.  If you are using technology have a plan B in mind if it were to fail.  I have seen this happen all too often and when it does it often throws the speaker completely off track.  Think about it ahead of time and be able to move forward in spite of these difficulties.  This builds your credibility and enhances your image in the eyes of your supervisors, which is a nice benefit of something that could be a disaster.
  6. If you are using PowerPoint or something similar, follow the 10-20-30 rule. 10 slides, 20 minutes in length, 30 point font.  Only use text where necessary, otherwise, use graphics to communicate.
  7.  “Leave them longing rather than loathing.”  Keep track of your time and make sure you stay within the allotted time frame for your presentation.  Going over your time is one of the most frustrating things you can do both for audiences and event organizers.  You may feel like your content is worth it, but likely there are many others who won’t agree.  Leave them longing rather than loathing.
  8.  Be organized.  Make sure your material is presented in a sequence which is easy for an audience to grasp.  This is why so many people use points, e.g. point 1, point 2, etc.  People like to see patterns and understand the sequence at an emotional level.  Your organization can contribute to their understanding of your material or being so confused that they go away empty.
  9.  Jokes are good, especially at the start, to ease everyone into the presentation.  However, if the joke is off-color or offensive in any way it will overshadow anything else you say and damage your credibility.  Make sure you look at the joke from the receiving end and consider whether it could be offensive.  Better no joke, than an offensive joke, this goes double for off-color jokes.
  10.  Examples and illustrations spread throughout the presentation help communicate with the audience and lets them identify with you or the material.  It helps make sense of large amounts of data.  You can overdo this, refer to point 6 above.
  11. Those new to speaking in public often fall into the trap of using filler words or expressions such as “uh.” This is always annoying and in extreme cases can completely derail communication of your subject. Practice your speech/presentation before a mirror and record it. Afterward, count the number of filler words used and work on reducing the number.  This comes with practice and intentionally working to overcome this habit.
  12. Use pauses in place of filler words to give yourself time to think and to allow your message to connect. Usually no more than a few seconds, pauses placed strategically throughout the presentation can greatly enhance communication.  As with filler words, practice in front of a mirror and record, then review and think about where a pause would have the best impact.


Watch the Eyes

I’m not talking about eye contact, although that is important. What I’m talking about is being aware of who has influence and where the lines of power within a meeting/organization fall.  There is no way to escape politics; wherever two or more people are gathered together, politics is also present.  Leadership is about influence and while title figures into the equation, it is by no means the whole story.   Check out the video below:


Are You Missing an Advantage?

If there is something out there that will give me an advantage, I want to know about it. There are a LOT of different sites trying to sell you something, all with the promise of doing just that: giving you an advantage. Many of those are questionable in what they provide. Buyer beware!

However, I have personally found that LinkedIn DOES provide value, and what is even better, it is entirely free. Setting up an account on Linked it and completing the profile, an important step, has several benefits.

For those who aren’t aware, LinkedIn is a professional social media site. While there are similarities to other social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn focuses specifically on providing a place for professional interaction.  I believe being on LinkedIn demonstrates some level of savvy regarding the use of technology and awareness of the impact of social media in our world.  I know when I think about hiring someone, their profile on LinkedIn is one of the places I look at first. If they don’t have a presence, I wonder why.

Some of the benefits of being on LinkedIn include:

  • Having your resume available for easy search by a large number of employees
  • An easy way to distribute your resume by sending a link
  • Providing an outlet where you can demonstrate knowledge in your field
  • Giving you access to other professionals and their posts

My uncle Otis was convinced that when TV came out it was a combination of evil and a passing fad.  While the content of TV may be evil, it may also be inspirational, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be a passing fad.  I firmly believe that technology is only as moral and those who use it. To ignore technology, in this case social media, means to leave it in the hands of those who will abuse it.  As you can see from the chart below, most of the students in Belhaven’s Adult Programs either don’t have or don’t use their LinkedIn account.  I’d like you to re-think that decision.  If you do, please reach out to include me in your network.

Dr. Upchurch,
AVP Regional Campuses
Belhaven University