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You can't play the game if you don't know the rules

Some things never change. No matter how often parents, coaches, teachers, and consultants (those tasked with helping you learn or master a skill)  swear to the contrary, some people will always insist that they don't need to play by the rules. Recently I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing yet another example of this. There was a speaker. And she may have thought it was fine to speak "from the heart," or "off the cuff." But I watched as her audience coughed, squirmed, and pulled out their cellphones. She was oblivious. And she completely lost them. This caused a communications snafu that was entirely avoidable. Fortunately, in this instance, the damage inflicted will not be lasting, nor is it very serious. But damage was done, nonetheless, to the speaker's credibility, which may affect her leadership standing going forward.

Understanding how to communicate to an audience is not rocket science. Yet I am constantly baffled by otherwise intelligent people who seem to have absolutely zero clue about how to be good speakers. Which is surprising, because it is not a complicated process. The rules for effective speaking are easier to master than the rules of baseball. You need to know your subject matter, know your audience, and know how best to get your message across to them.

All of this varies depending on the specifics of your situation, of course, but a couple of standard rules always apply, whether you are giving "a few remarks" at an event or making a formal speech:

  • Always structure your comments, to include a beginning (intro), middle (main points--no more than four, but three is preferred!), and end (wrap-up). You may be a non-linear thinker, but unless your audience is made up wholly of mind-readers, you'd do well to stick to the formula that passes for the lingua franca of organized speech.
  • Always plan ahead, so you have organized your thoughts (see above).
  • Always stick to your preparation. The biggest consequence of people going "off script" is that they dig themselves into verbal holes they then need to spend valuable time getting out of. And they lose the attention of their audience--resulting in a hit to their credibility. As I saw so clearly in this most recent instance.

Don't be the speaker who squanders the goodwill of your listeners by performing a "brain dump" that is confusing and hard to follow. Plan ahead. Stick to your game plan. Get to the point--then get off the field.

As Tommy Lasorda said, “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.” Be the one who makes it happen.

Reader Comments (1)

"Lose," not "loose" and "absolutely," not "absolutley." Content is fine.

July 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

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