Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation
by Lisa B. Marshall
Reviewed by: Terence O'Neill
Social situations are filled with choices, times you might be sure there is a correct course, and just as sure you don’t know what it is. From introducing one person to another at a party to negotiating a raise, there are myriad points of communication in our work lives, and many of them can be difficult and unnerving to execute. Lisa B. Marshall is here to help. In this book, the professional communication expert delivers her advice on a variety of types of professional communication, aiming to make readers more confident, more effective, and more successful.
Over fourteen chapters, the author isolates specific social situations and relates tactics for carrying those out effectively while preserving relationships. At first glance, I thought the book was about speaking in front of crowds, but instead the book focuses on smaller verbal transactions. To Marshall, each of these interactions matter in improving the possibility of success: future deals, discoveries, and friendships. Each chapter describes one basic challenge (introductions, how to say “no”, etc.), provides advice, gives anecdotal examples, and ends with a series of steps to take to work on these issues.
Social at the Workplace
The first several chapters focus on some of the basic mechanics of the sometimes challenging social life of a professional, such as striking up conversations with strangers. A lot of what Marshall advises comes off as common sense, or at least common cultural practice (“If you don’t have anything to talk about, ask them about their travel, or the weather”), but Marshall explains why these things are important, too: you always want a conversation to be the start of something more. To get there, and past the awkwardness that many experience, there are steps that one can take. It takes practice, such as talking to a stranger a day, so that the next time you’re next to a potential client at the supermarket, it’s not the strangest conversation you’ve struck up that week.
The Tougher Points
While the first few chapters focus on basic social skills, the next several address some of the trickier forms of communication that cause many people undue stress: negotiation, receiving and giving feedback, and others. I found this section of the book to be similarly formulaic to the first, but addressing terrain more rare and often more important. Again, Marshall gives lots of advice, and while some of it is obvious, other parts are more insightful. For instance, she recommends avoiding the “Good-Bad-Good” form for providing feedback to people, since many recognize the pattern and find it patronizing. Instead, emphasize how what needs to be worked on fits in with the larger goals of the organization, and try to find a common solution that allows them to improve the outcome in a way that makes sense to them.
At this point in the book, I thought “Oh, I should send this to a colleague who mentioned how giving feedback was something they wanted to work on”, and I imagine that this is how many people will approach this book. No one will find it all universally useful, but everyone will find some portion of the book useful to themselves or someone else. The structure of the book allows for a person to focus in on what they want to improve upon, and work out a structure for addressing that issue.
Should you read it?
If you find the social rules and cues for certain social circumstances difficult to figure out, or you want a structure for practicing better communication with your staff or potential customers, you can probably find a chapter or two that fit your needs. If you want to generally practice improving your communication skills, as opposed to one specific type of interaction, reading this book a chapter at a time over a long period should be useful.
For some people, though, the author’s writing may come off as a bit oily. For the author, each conversation is an attempt to sell something, and that can be wearing over the course of the whole book. Despite this trend, if the subject matter in Smart Talk addresses a skill set you would like to improve upon, this book is a good place to begin.
Terence O’Neill is our Entrepreneurship Librarian. He works to connect entrepreneurs to resources that will better inform their business decisions. Through a background in libraries and community education, Terence has worked to support business and innovation internationally and throughout Michigan.
Have a book you want reviewed, or another comment? You can reach Terence at email@example.com.
Do you think Smart Talk sounds good? Check out the audiobook!
Faculty, staff, and students now have access to Mergent Key Business Ratios. This database provides access to competitive benchmarking data compiled from D&B’s database of public and private companies.
Lansing Maker Week is almost here. MSU Libraries is one of more than a dozen community partners that will be contributing to Lansing’s first annual Maker Week. As one of the Lansing Maker Week partners, the MSU Libraries will be showcasing maker activities we support during an open house. There will be demos of the Espresso Book Machine, which is capable of printing a book in 7 minutes from a pdf file, and the new 3D printer.
When: Tuesday, October 7 from 12-4pm
Where: 2nd floor of the Main Library.
More Maker Week Events on MSU’s Campus:
Open House at the Hive: The Hive, MSU’s new entrepreneurship incubation hub, is designed to give MSU student entrepreneurs all the resources they need. Ken Szymusiak, the Managing Director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, as well as the manager of the Hive, will lead tours.
When: Tuesday, October 7 from 12-4pm
Where: Wilson Hall
Broad Art Museum: The Flat Bread Society Exhibit will be on display from 1pm-6pm. At 6pm, Steve Teeri, from the Ann Arbor District Library, will give Tuesday’s keynote presentation.
When: Tuesday, October 7
These are just a few of the events from one day of Lansing Maker Week, which goes from October 6- October 12. The events during the week lead up to Startup Weekend: Maker Edition, which begins with Friday night pitches and ends with Sunday night demos and presentations.
Over the next two weeks, there are two events that all MSU business students should try to attend.
The Career Resource Fair
When: 9/24-9/25 and 9/29-9/30 from 10am-2pm
Where: 1st floor hallway of the Business College Complex
The Career Resource Fair is a one-stop shop for students to prepare for the Career Gallery! Employers will be paired with Career Center staff to help service students in resume critiques, interviews, elevator speeches, career resourcing and more! The library will be helping to staff the Company Research/Career Resources table. Look for Emily Treptow to help you with your questions on company research.
The Career Gallery
When: 10/1 – 10/2 from 2pm-6pm
Where: The Breslin Center.
It is MSU’s largest career fair with more than 300 employers and 5000 students over the 2 days. The Business Exchange, which is on Thursday, October 2, is the # 1 event to recruit Broad students. Make sure to register ahead of time.
For questions about the Business Exchange, call (517) 432-0830.
Be Prepared: Use Library Resources!
As you prepare for the Career Gallery, remember that the Gast Business Library is here to help you with your research. We have many databases that will help give you the competitive edge over students that just research companies using Google. Below are a few of our guides to help you get started:
Questions? Contact Emily Treptow
3D Printing is a form of additive manufacturing that creates objects from digital designs by layering plastic or other material to match the design. This technology is quickly changing how models and products are being created in a wide variety of fields, from airplane engine manufacturing to jewelry design. On Tuesday, September 9, to celebrate the launching of 3D Printing services at the Main Library, MSU Libraries hosted representatives from Packaging, Engineering, and Veterinary Medicine to highlight how the technology is being used on campus.
Over the past few years, the number of programs and labs encouraging students to create designs and prototypes has surged. For students in the School of Packaging, that means the ability to create a bottle or case that fits their specifications, allowing students to tangibly test their assumptions. For those in Engineering, 3D Printing has enabled the fabrication of casements for small aquatic robots. In addition to designing new objects, the advancement of 3D Printing has enabled the replication of existing objects at a faster rate and cheaper cost than having them manufactured off campus. At the College of Veterinary Medicine, this enables the replicating of dogs’ fractured bones, allowing practice before surgery and the better understanding of anatomy. To create these models, the files were captured from a CAT scan of the dog.
To enable members of the MSU community to have access to this technology, MSU Libraries is now offering 3D Printing on the second floor of the Main Library at the Copy Center. Students, staff, and faculty with a file can setup an appointment with Copy Center staff at 3DPrint@mail.lib.msu.edu. In the near future, the Copy Center also hopes to support both 3D scanning and the basics of 3D design.
Written by Terence O'Neill
Photo Credit: Jonah Magar
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