Dennis Gutierrez expected to be a criminal investigator when he set off for John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. In the Bronx, where he grew up, his father worked for the sanitation department, and, he says, “most of my role models were civil service workers — fire, sanitation, or corrections.” He did not end up a policeman (though he passed the entry exams), but he did work for awhile in the vaguely related area of hotel security.
Gutierrez found his way into the security business while he was working his way through college. He had a coworker whose father was a retired detective and was serving as bodyguard for Leona Helmsley in her Park Lane Hotel. Gutierrez joined the team and had a great time. “I was 21 and got to wear a nice suit and go to work and meet big shots,” he recalls.
During his tenure with Helmsley, she purchased a security system for her hotel that the security team was trained to operate. Gutierrez discovered he had a knack for understanding what stumped people during the learning process. After helping Helmsley to introduce the system in her other hotels, he went to work as a trainer for Uniqey International, which had created the first electronic card key access system.
After three years, sales slowed and Gutierrez was tiring of traveling. He took a job in the information technology department of the Vista Hotel in Washington, D.C. Then he moved to sales, first for a startup that supplied data cabling services and then for Honeywell Protection Services, where he sold residential and commercial protection systems.
Tiring of sales, he realized that what he enjoyed most was teaching and training and he took a part-time job as a Berlitz English language instructor. After 18 years, in 2004, he left to start his own business, English For Professionals, based at 17 Danielle Court in Lawrenceville.
Gutierrez is teaching a new “Project and Presentation Skills” in the Princeton YWCA’s ESL for business professionals program. The six-week class begins on Monday, September 29, at 6 p.m. Cost: $250. For more information, call Chandana Mahadeswaraswamy at 609-497-2100, ext. 306.
When business professionals are transferred from a corporate headquarters in Asia to a subsidiary in the United States, the lack of vocabulary words and verb tenses is a big obstacle to effective self-presentation. And life gets even more difficult when they are asked to give a talk to colleagues.
Gutierrez offers a few tips that may be helpful both to non-native English speakers and to anyone who needs to make a business presentation:
Introduce yourself with a 30-second commercial. Gutierrez points out that people introduce themselves with a nondescript sentence like “I am an IT professional, and I analyze reports and give people information.” Well, yes, but usually they are doing a lot more than that description imparts.
Instead of selling the value of what they do, they are minimizing its importance. What they should be doing when they present a report, advises Gutierrez, is to say: “This is what the report is used for; this is why it is important; and this is the end value to the company.”
Gutierrez remembers a student describing his work as, “I do financial reports and give them to my boss.” His first advice was to use the proper lingo and call himself a data analyst. But upon questioning the student, Gutierrez found that he had created a new type of spreadsheet that enabled his boss to better understand what was going on in the business. “He gave his boss more than he asked for and let his boss look good,” he says. Eventually the new report format was being used across the company.
Set out to make an exceptional presentation. The goal is passion. “Hopefully people chose a job because they want to do it,” says Gutierrez. “I ask them to show their love for their job and impart its value more than information.” To help his students understand what he’s after, he will ask them to talk about the most exciting adventures or biggest accomplishments, and then he asks them to think about their answer — tone of voice, descriptive words, body stance — and transfer it to their work lives.
Paint a picture. Gutierrez once opened a presentation with a description of his recent whitewater rafting trip in Costa Rica — the paddling, the rain, the beautiful scenery, the sun. When he stopped to ask his students what they had heard and whether they had had a similar experience, the feedback he got was “Wow, it was almost like I was there.” So, says Gutierrez, “Paint a picture with words. It’s the best way to support any information, and your audience will remember you.”
Spice up your subject with something fun. A little research into history, etymology, or culture can add a zing to a presentation. One of Gutierrez’s students, whose hobby was origami, brought in an origami crane, explained its symbolism in the Japanese culture, and then he used it as a metaphor to lead into his presentation.
Today Gutierrez’s interests in security have entirely shifted to helping professionals feel secure in their English skills. Although they may know, for example, how to handle interruptions in German, Japanese, or Chinese, in English they may well respond to a question from the audience by saying something like “Sorry I can’t do that now.” Gutierrez explains. “It’s not a very professional way to handle it, but they don’t know better words.”