Learning: PD highlights — April 2014

A look at how courses can help people overcome their fear of public speaking; plus lessons learned from the CPA Canada Advanced Corporate Finance Course and the AICPA Women's Global Leadership Summit.

At Ease with the Audience

If the thought of giving your next presentation elicits stomach knots and cold sweats, you're not alone.

In survey after survey, public speaking ranks right up there with dying when it comes to people's greatest fears.

But given that presentations are par for the course in the profession, more and more accountants are turning to educational organizations such as Toastmasters International to help facilitate workshops that can help them hone their speaking skills.

The CMA Manitoba Toastmasters, started 25 years ago, is a small group of some 12 rotating members who meet once a week from September to June to present prepared and impromptu speeches. Greg Connor, who has been participating for four years, says it has "absolutely helped" him become more comfortable in front of an audience in the workplace. "As we get into higher roles and there is more need for public speaking, it's handy to be able to do presentations without fumbling."

In EY's Toronto office, the firm sponsors EY Lightly Toasted Toastmasters for employees from all parts of the business. "It's not only a chance to focus on my own public speaking skills, but to collaborate with others," says Cherry Cheng, a CPA and manager who leads the club. "We learn from each other in a positive and fun environment."

After Vancouver accounting firm Smythe Radcliffe LLP ran a Toastmasters chapter at its offices for five years, tax partner Tom Morton decided it should start its own speaker's bureau this year. The partners agreed. Staff will provide free finance-related presentations to community groups in exchange for an opportunity to perfect their oratory skills."

As much as firms appreciate it when they have good public speakers, they don't always do enough in developing their people," says Morton. "You have to be a good speaker to grab the attention of your audience."

For more information on Toastmasters, go to www.toastmasters.org.

Personal Picks

The Advanced Corporate Finance Course (CPA Canada) castore.ca/advcf

Bottom line: "It was an ideal vehicle for me as I was getting out of public practice after 30 years to start my own consulting role. I found the Valuation in Corporate Finance particularly useful. There were good case studies and the instructors were all in the field."

— Eric Coombs, ELC Consulting Inc., St. John's, Nfld.

Seen and Heard

Aicpa Women's Global Leadership Summit

When: Oct. 24-25, 2013

Where: Washington, DC

This second annual summit focused on strategies for developing leadership skills. Some key messages:

  1. Technical competence is not enough to move you through the ranks. You also need confidence, which you gain by going outside your comfort zone.
  2. Do the right things at the right times in your career and make sure the right people know about them. If you don't advocate for yourself, no one else will. It also means asking for what you want, such as that high-profile assignment.
  3. If you want to join corporate boards, you must have "owned" a profit and loss — i.e., have been ultimately responsible for a business division's performance.
  4. When presenting to senior leaders, be brief and start with the conclusion. Don't wait till the end — it's not a murder mystery! If you present well, people think you do everything well.
  5. Work-life balance has morphed into career-life integration: integrate work into your life so you have time for family and community too.

The 2014 summit will take place Oct. 23-24 in Washington, DC

Career Navigation Toolkit for Women - Advancing Women in the Profession

The Speaker Skills Institute (Toronto-based)

Performance Management Consultants (across Canada)

The Leaders' Institute (across North America and Europe)

Clear Speech (focus on accents, stuttering, etc.)