How-to: Career advancement

The elevator pitch, humane PowerPoint use, detecting a liar and more.

How to make an elevator pitch

Entrepreneurs use the term to describe a very quick business pitch, but the principles of the elevator pitch can be used to sell any idea. Brevity is key. More than two minutes is too long. The pitch also must answer at least three crucial questions: What’s the idea? Who cares? And why are you the person to do it? Distilling those answers down will help you focus your idea. Plain language is also key. “Tell me in words my 70-year-old mother can understand,” says Barry Gekiere, a venture capital veteran and managing partner at Kirchner Private Capital Group in Toronto. And, finally, practise. You may only have one chance to pitch the idea to the right person.

How to maximize your paperwork

Read faster and retain more: Train your eye to read groups of words rather than sounding out individual words in your head, known as sub-vocalizing, says Beth Moreno, a University of Texas prof who teaches speed-reading courses. It takes about six months of practice to shut out sub-vocalizations. Ironically, your comprehension may increase at the same time since speed-reading requires great concentration.

Wielding business cards: Cards are for building relationships, so don’t go around handing it out to everyone. Establish a connection first, then give out your card at the end of the conversation. Don’t absentmindedly stuff someone else’s card into your pocket. Ask a question or two.

Explaining an outrageous lunch bill to accounts payable: If a client lunch has spiralled out of control, highlight how much that client is worth — or potentially worth — to the company. “Justify the return on investment,” says Daphne Woolf, a Toronto management consultant . “Or plead stupidity” (You had no idea the restaurant would be so expensive!). Just don’t let it happen again.

Developing an authoritative signature: Apply pressure, which shows confidence. Slant your writing upward and use tall capital letters to indicate optimism. Show self-reliance: underline it.

How to use PowerPoint humanely

1. Limit the number of slides. You are the focal point of the presentation. The slides are there for support.

2. Use text sparingly. There is no point in overwhelming your audience with words they can’t possibly read, or worse, reading from the slide yourself. A written document to supplement the presentation is far more useful in that case.

3. Avoid clip art. It looks dumb.

4. Try a sans serif font. Serif fonts tend to appear fuzzy when projected. Legibility is the point.

5. Keep charts simple. “Presenters are usually guilty of including too much data in their on-screen charts,” writes Garr Reynolds, a marketing professor at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan. Strip charts to the bare essentials for maximum impact.

How to boost employee morale instantly and inexpensively

Of course the answer is cake. Even better: cake shaped like something that’s not cake, like briefcase-shaped cupcakes by Cupcake Envy in N.C.

How to schmooze at a conference

Find out in advance who will be attending and learn a bit about the people you’d like to meet (join LinkedIn if you haven’t already). This should provide you with a few conversation starters. Ask questions — don’t blather on about yourself. Don’t carry food or drinks with you when you’re working the room. You don’t want to risk spills or gabbing with spinach between your teeth. You also want your hands free for introductions and doling out your business card. Most important, follow up. Send contacts you’ve made a quick e-mail the next day to let them know you enjoyed meeting them. Include a detail or two about what you discussed so it’s clear they’re not receiving a canned e-mail.

How to tell if someone is lying

1. To relieve the stress of lying, people often use their palms to rub their arms or legs to stimulate the release of the calming hormone oxytocin.

2. Liars often feel threatened and put up “barriers” to protect themselves, such as placing a hand on the neck, over the stomach or over the groin.

3. A liar might make direct eye contact or look away entirely when fudging the truth. The trick is to assess how the person behaves ordinarily. Any change in behaviour could mean something fishy is afoot.

4. Stressful situations often lead people to perspire — also, look out for an increased breathing rate and excess swallowing.

Let’s bring back … Calling the boss Mr. or Ms.

“It is an old cliche that familiarity breeds contempt, but it is very true about work relationships. The office where everyone uses Christian names is frequently an inefficient office, even a discontented one.”
—Barbara Cartland’s Etiquette Handbook, 1962

How to delegate a difficult task to:

A Boomer employee: Boomers value hard work and, like most people, respond well to occasional flattery. Tell boomers that while the task may be unpleasant, you know they can complete it faster, better and with more care than anyone else.

A Gen-X employee: Save your flattery. This generation came into the workforce when concerns about work-life balance were growing. If possible, allow them to finish the assignment from home, or to take the afternoon off when it’s complete.

A Gen-Y employee: ‘Millennials’ want to feel they’re making a difference, even in an entry-level job, says workplace generational expert Lynne Lancaster. Explain how the task will benefit the department, the customer or the community at large.