“Communicator” | Elements of an Elite STEM Professional (#3)

ELEMENT #3 Communicator – [C]

“The ability to transfer your knowledge of subject matter in a way that can be received by any audience.”

I was promoted to the project manager position and had my first opportunity to represent my company at an owners meeting. I met my supervisor in the parking lot of the building and, as we walked inside, he said to me, “Ricky, you are going to be running this meeting. I’m just going to sit back and be there to support you.” At first I thought, “Great! Here’s my shot to show what I can do!” Then, all of a sudden, nervousness hit me. As I was rehearsing in my head, I couldn’t think of any words to use to explain my progress of the project. Then I heard what seemed like dreadful words, “Do the engineers have anything to add or any comments?” I started talking and I stumbled way too much about issues no one at that table cared for. I was a mess! Finally, I said the best words of the meeting “That’s all.” Feeling ashamed of my less than stellar performance, I tried so hard not to make eye contact afterwards.

As my supervisor and I walked out, I confessed, “I was so nervous.” He looked at me laughed a little and said “I didn’t know what in the world you were talking about in there.” Then he followed up with simple words that just seemed to stick to me, “Ricky, next time, just tell them what you know. Nothing more, nothing less.” What he said wasn’t profound, but it allowed me to realize that I didn’t have to put on a show or try to look like the smart guy in the room. All I had to do was share what I knew. Now I receive requests to present to hundreds and thousands or people sharing my simple knowledge.

The communication element is important because when the proper skills are developed it will set you apart from the most intelligent, introverted STEM professionals. We all know a typical STEM professional would prefer to stay behind his/her desk and work without interruption, dreading the moments when they have to share their progress. They often talk at such a high level that the common owner or investor doesn’t understand anything. We love to share way too much details (the things that excite us), but to a non-STEM individual, receiving that information is like listening to someone scratch a blackboard with their fingernails.

How did I go from stumbling over my words to being a Rock Star on many stages? Practice, Practice, Practice. It’s that simple! Look for moments when you can talk about what you do and practice sharing the information in ways people can understand. Record yourself speaking and listen to it over and over, identifying areas you need to revise. One other piece of advice is to find a group that can critique you. One very diverse group, called Toastmasters, would be a great platform for you to grow into a phenomenal speaker.

This piece comes to us from one of our amazing community members and STEMedia Partners, Ricky Venters. This new series is based from his book Live on E. His bio is below, be sure to check out his awesome website and if you would like to work with us you can email us here!

Ricky Venters is recognized as an Engineer of Impact. Defying the odds,completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and has achieved his Professional Engineering License. During his tenure in STEM related fields, Ricky recognized the increasing competitiveness in the industry and sought to become a source of inspiration and mentor to students and young professionals in STEM related fields. Follow him now!

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Ricky D. Venters, Jr. P.E.