Wednesday, February 29, 2012


We should consider introductions to be a major contributor to the success of most communication.  That applies to interpersonal communication, small group communication and public speaking presentations.  There are questions we can ask ourselves that will aid our thinking process.

1.  Who am I?
2.  Who are they?
3.  Why should they care?
4.  What kind of "map" will the audience need?
5.  How can more senses be involved?
6.  What will aid their recall?

Who am I?  Two people can say the same thing with different outcomes.  A person that we know and trust can make the statement and we will listen, believe and attempt to retain.  Another that we don't know and therefore can't trust can make the statement and we listen with doubt, fear that we cannot trust and don't want to recall it because it might embarrass us. We call those we tend to believe credible.

For example. if you are a regular church member in good standing you probably trust your leader to give you valuable and useful information which you can use to improve your life.  If you are listening to a different religious leader you might not listen with the same unquestioning process and fail to either retain what was said or even consider it.  Who says a thing is very important.

Include information which will aid your listener in evaluating their need to focus, question and retain what you are saying.  Build your own credibility and the introduction is an excellent place to put it.

Who are they?  In conversation, one on one, we take into consideration who we are talking to.  That permits us to make as much sense as possible in the shortest length of time and achieve the desired result.  This rule always applies no matter how large the audience.  The more you know about the audience (what they know, what they do, how well they do it, what they would like to know and why) the more likely you will be able to meet their needs and expectations. We call that audience analysis and broadcasters and producers wouldn't know what to do without information about their projected audiences.

Why should they care?  If there is no particular reason for them to listen to you, why would they want to spend the time and energy focusing on what you have to say.  What's in it for them?  That's a legitimate question and it deserves your attention.  The reason they should care should be in the introduction.  Make it clear and sharply focused to insure that they are willing to spend the necessary time and attention.

What kind of "map" will the audience need? Is the trip they are taking with you a long and winding trip?  Or are you able to show them some direct routes to understanding.  This process can be likened to a map.  It has a starting point and and ending point.  Along the way there will be some scenery that they can enjoy and all in all it should be an enjoyable trip.  Be certain that the map you use fits the audience that is taking the trip.  This going to be clearest to you when you understand how the members of your audience "mean."  Remember, meaning is in us.  What we are going to attempt is to create that meaning in others.  That can't be done without careful consideration of who the audience is.  That will include, age, sex, education, experience, income, cultural values to name some of the needed categories.  This is an ideal location for your central idea as well as the main ideas you will be covering.

How can more senses be involved? Words (verbal) are detected by hearing.  Speak clearly and distinctly at a reasonable pace.  It is often very useful to include visual aids: photos and charts for example.  In addition, you can convert your "complete outline" into short clear phrases and sentences which can become part of a visual presentation using PowerPoint or other visual presentation software.  That way they can see what you are saying while you are saying it.  That will involve at least two senses (seeing and hearing) making it easier to follow what you are saying.  The nonverbal can be gestures and body movements that underscore what is being shown and said.

What will aid their recall?  Numbered sequences, mnemonic devices and actions can be useful to aid your listener to recall what you said.  For example: "There are three things that you must recall in order to. . .", "CIGARS will aid you when you are getting ready to takeoff in an airplane.  C is for controls. . ."  Students in kindergarten are taught letters and sound by combining actions and sounds and the process is very efficient in teaching the alphabet.

I further suggest that you take the time to write out, but not memorize, your introduction.  You will find it easier to set the ideas in your mind and analyze the elements you are including.  Your brain, having gone over the word choice process once, will do a better job of aiding you to choose your words when standing in front of your audience.

A well thought out introduction will open the minds of your listeners quickly and efficiently.  If you lose them at the beginning, you're not likely to get them back ever.  Think about what they need and what you need them to think and then give it to them as quickly and clearly as possible.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two Important Items

These items are key, in many respects, to surviving a speech in front of an audience:
1) Knowing, and
2) A concern for the listener that approaches being a missionary.

Knowing: you will realize that you know beyond doubt when your boss asks you to fill in for him/her.  That should give you the perception check you need to accept your knowledge base as being dependable.  First, your boss isn't going to select anyone to be their representative anywhere unless there is confidence in their ability. Build on that confidence. When you are chosen to speak it is because there is confidence in your ability.  Accept that and build on it.

Missionary: think of your goal as being more important than your ability to avoid mistakes and shine under stress.  Instead, think of your knowledge as being something that individuals in the audience need in order to realize their goals.  The important thing then is that they hear, be able to recall and use what you are presenting to them.  Nothing else should be allowed to supersede that goal. 

These two concepts should go a long way to reduce the fear or stage fright that is no natural to most of us. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What You'll Need To Know

One of the most feared things in life is to have to make a public address.  It isn't that we're stupid, it is instead that we don't want to make a mistake in public and have others think of us as stupid.  Even for those who speak to large groups on a regular basis, there is fear (stage fright.) What makes us concerned about the possibility that somehow we will be forced to speak in public. 

That's a fair assumption.  If you do your job well over time, you will be noticed.  If for any reason the boss cannot meet the public speaking appointment, then those under their control will have to make the speech on the corporation's behalf.  What I will discuss in the next few blogs is how we can not only survive these events, but thrive.

Most importantly, we will know that we won't be asked to speak in order to embarrass the boss and your corporation.  Put another way, if you are asked to speak it will be because they know you know the material to be presented.  If you know what to do with the data you already have, then together we can turn the event into a career enhancing performance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Things Work

These are the steps of which to be aware when working within a group: orientation, conflict, emergence and reinforcement, and they are discussed in Communications: Principles for a Lifetime by Beebe, Beebe and Ivy. Practice them from this day forward and the likelihood of your success will be increased.  

1.  Orientation: several questions should come to mind.  "Why does this group exist?"  "Who are these folk with whom I will be working?"  "What is it that we are expected to accomplish?" "Why am I part of this group anyway?"

If any attempt is made to "get things going" without adequate answers to these questions the likelihood of success is reduced.  It is usually good to ask questions even though you think you know what you would do in the situation. Without this step how can you be certain that all in the group are trying to achieve the same goal?

2.  Conflict: because we are all different there will be conflict.  It is the very nature of human contact.  The question to answer is, "How do we resolve our conflict?" Conflict will emerge from a wide range of points.

"Who put you in charge, anyway?"  "Why are we working on this goal now?"  "What makes you think that we can achieve this goal following that plan?" Isn't this plan that was successful in Medford what we need here?"  "Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?"

3.  Emergence: through discussion, sharing data, and negotiation something comes out that appears to be workable. As the context changes each participant may come to view the goal and the strategies in ways that weren't anticipated. In fact, it is probable that there will be changes out of which a solution may emerge.

As the discussion proceeds, terminology becomes refined and words merge into a new context, which allows each participant to better understand what is happening.  New things are being said like: "Now is see what you mean."  "I think when we view our goal from this point of view, more of us can agree."  "It is a reachable goal and with what we have learned here we can reach it fairly soon." Often some key data turns up as a result of multiple participants discussion.  "I think the success of that plan in Medford can be adapted to our situation here."

4.  Reinforcement: as progress toward a goal is made it is a good thing to point out. Those who have been outspoken may be more comfortable putting their contributions into a new context. Here is an important place for compliments that are straight forward an honest can payoff. Having achieved goals is almost always a point to celebrate. If social rewards are passed out, it will be good for both the group and the individual.  Giving credit where credit is due is an excellent way to put it. 

Keep in mind, communication is a process.  People are processes.  They aren't now what they once were and with proper care and compliments they will be increasingly productive.  Our associations one with another is a building process.  Future projects will be more successful and easier to achieve because of the mutual reinforcement we practice.Another way to look at it is: there is no end, only process. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Teams and Groups

When we stop to think about it, a great deal is accomplished when folk get together and work toward a common goal.  I'm certain we have that concept somewhere in our mind.  It's important that each person in the group be "on the same page." And it is important that each person is aware of the fact that they belong to something. 

"Team means Together Everyone Achieves More!" It isn't known who first said this, and it applies to group activities as well as team efforts.  What is often overlooked is "those groups/teams do best that have the best communication skills.  As a consequence, businesses are always on the lookout for employees that can work together with others and have excellent communication skills.  

Time spent improving out abilities in communication is really time well spent for us individually and for our entire community.  Those skills should be put to use all the time so that we can achieve things together that individually would be beyond our reach.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Keep In Mind These Four

When you are previewing your day include some thought (and preparation) for the various contacts you expect or imagine coming your way.  It is possible that the most important form of human communication is interpersonal, a dyad.  It will aid you in making and maintaining friendships, help you acquire and maintain a job and possibly most importantly help you to gain and maintain your significant other.  There are four basic concepts that Donn King suggests will help you to recall areas of needed preparation.

1) Interpersonal communication is inescapable

2) Interpersonal communication is irreversible

3) Interpersonal communication is complicated

4) Interpersonal communication is contextual

Take five minutes to review these and then put them into practice to smooth the road ahead.



Monday, February 06, 2012

Who are you?

Tough question for many of us.  "I am what I am," some say.  "That's what I am and you'll have to take it or leave it."  On the other hand, if our genes, life experiences and thoughts have a bearing on who we are, then we also have a say in who we are and who we want to be.  We can shape our future.  Julian Baggini during a TED Talk clearly expresses this idea. To view his presentation click on the link above.

We can train our brain in many ways.  Explore what you want to be, and then begin the process necessary for you to reach your goal.  Try to keep your goals in the reasonable range.  I will never be able to run a 4 minute mile, for example.  On the other hand, you might be able to.