Had a great time speaking at Saturday’s Toastmaster’s District 37 Spring Conference. As always, the preparation and delivery taught me more than anyone will ever get out of one of my sessions. That’s the real joy of teaching.One of the nuggets from this weekend’s session is something I’ve had to relearn many times. When giving directions, it is paramount to give them in a clear, concise, and unambiguous manner. I had an activity for all participants to engage in, with a followup that involved them interacting with each other. It was really clear (to me!) what should be done. But when it came out, I combined the two activities such that it made little sense. Fortunately, I was with Toastmasters, who either like to talk or are learning to like to talk, so they spoke out quickly asking for clarification. Many audiences aren’t so forthright, and the presenter won’t find out the directions were bad until debriefing.Regardless of the audience, whenever there is a directive, it is important to make it clear. It’s better if the steps are small and easily remembered, and the conditions for success are laid out as well. People will want to participate more when it’s clear what is expected of them. This is also true of larger issues, such as employee performance. Telling someone that the company “needs to be more efficient” is not a clear directive. Telling them that travel costs need to decrease by 50% is better, and having a set of objective measures by which to approve travel requests is better still.
When you want cooperation and participation, make the directions clear.