While quantitative skills are crucial for Commerce, effective communication is essential too, especially in the classroom. I’ll take you through three key communication aspects to expect as a Commerce student:
1. Class participation: Class participation is an integral part of the McIntire experience, and one of my favorite parts of the program. Students participate in several ways during class:
- Sharing facts from a case you read for homework, usually prompted by a specific question. These answers show you are prepared for class, but remain at surface level.
- Analyzing the content of what’s taught in class. You think aloud about the implications of whatever you’re studying. You might bring in personal experience or prior knowledge on a related subject. Sometimes, you might also point out blind spots or assumptions that might be untrue.
- Asking questions when something’s unclear. I’ve found value in asking what might feel like a “dumb” question. My professors were always happy for the opportunities to clarify further. Asking questions also shows that you’re engaged with the content.
2. Writing: In addition to participation, we also have to write–a LOT. In our first semester, we learned memo and report styles. In both cases, brevity was crucial in addressing executives. I spent hours with my group members rewording or deleting entire sections so we could stay within the word limits, even on our 40-page report at the end of our first semester.
My advice is to work on your writing skills. Be comfortable professionally expressing yourself in writing. Your style will undoubtedly be tweaked in your Communication class, but it saves time with group projects if everyone is already at a high writing level.
3. Spoken presentations: Personally, I love public speaking, so I thought there would be no issue with giving speeches in front of my classmates. After our first speech assignment, however, I realized how much I could improve. It was a different but necessary experience to have strict timeframes and speech structures to stick to.
Some of the elements we’re taught to include are:
- Attention-grabbing openers
- BLUF (bottom line up front)
- Key takeaways
With my first couple of speeches and presentations, my heart was pounding, and my leg was shaking! But now, I know how to structure effective speeches and presentations, both with and without visual aids. The nerves are still there, but I feel more confident after all our practice.
There are more communication elements to discuss, but I’ve highlighted the key takeaways from my experience so far. McIntire is all about diverse experiences, but good communication skills are required from everyone. Even when crunching the numbers, you have to be able to explain what you did, how you did it and, why. So, no matter what your preference or skill set, effective communication is crucial for success in McIntire. I encourage you to choose courses and seek out experiences that will give you the opportunity to improve your communication skills.