One of the things I do with my classes on training and communication skills is to have folks focus on a particular skill while talking about just about anything. I beg, plead, joke, and remind that in this skill-building session, I’m not really concerned at all with what they say, but focus rather on how they say it (we’ll focus on content in a separate session). I’ve even allowed international students to speak in their native tongue (that none of the audience understands) to drive home the point that I want to focus on the mechanics.And yet it never fails that someone (or ones) will comment/complain that the class would be easier for them if they had a prepared speech. While I’m tempted to say I’m not in the business of training to make things easy for them, I instead ask for truthful answers to questions like: Do you ever go to meetings where you are asked or feel compelled to give a report, opinion, or comment that you have not prepared beforehand? Do your kids ever ask questions that they have not alerted you to the content about 15 minutes before? Does your spouse ever require feedback on issues that you have not fully thought through? Do social relationships ever bring up topics for discussion that require the formation of ad hoc content?And the answers always indicate that we communicate in an impromptu fashion for much of our lives. Our goal in developing good mechanics is to get to the point where we do the right things automatically, so that we can give full attention to our audience and our message. Life unfortunately does not often give us a warning, dress rehearsal, or outline.
Make delivery mechanics habitual, so that you can focus on the content when the situation arises.
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