Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How to Connect When Speaking Publicly: Part 7

Part 7, Leave Them Wanting to Learn More

One of my favorite things about classic movie series like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean or Death Wish (okay, maybe not that last one) is that the movies always left me wanting more.

Classrooms, Sanctuaries and Conference Rooms
The same goes for an effective, inspiring, motivating speech. One of my favorite ways of doing this is to leave an issue at least partially unresolved. As a school teacher, this added greatly to the likelihood that my students were fully engaged from the beginning of class the following day. As a minister it leaves room for ongoing discussion among families during the week, and leads to some great conversation in Sunday School or Small Groups. As a consultant, it gets folks fired up for the next session and makes discussion in breakout sessions much livelier. It also increases one’s odds of getting called back for further consultation.

The truth is, it’s not that hard to do, but it does take some intentionality. You want people to leave a session, workshop, class, service or presentation feeling like there was value to it even as a stand-alone experience. So you don’t want to leave them with no take-away. But the trick is to use the take away as a launch into the next question.

For example, in a government class I might talk about the battle over school prayer. And after I have gone through all the court cases and rulings that let them know the issues and even see their own opinion in one or more of them, I might conclude with a teaser. I could say, “Finally, the Supreme Court ruled on this very definitively in the 1980’s by saying that offering a public school class a moment of silence that included the option of prayer is unconstitutional. As an aside, when they issued this ruling, they ironically also made it constitutionally possible for every teacher to offer a moment of silence that allows prayer as an option. But that’s another story. If you’re interested, we can talk about that tomorrow.”

As a preacher, the approach would be different. Let’s say I wanted to get them to consider how to live a life of no regrets. I might spend a lot of time talking about the things that cause regret, and the dysfunctional things we do to deal with it. The take-away is learning what not to do. But the teaser is leaving the answer of what to do with the regret open-ended, saying I will address that next week. Now the congregation has time to process all the unhealthy things they do to deal with regret without prematurely jumping to a solution. They can come to grips with their past and be honest with themselves about destructive ways of coping. And by the next Sunday, they are now ready to hear some good news that has far greater potential for sinking deeply into the soul. Had I resolved the whole thing in one week, the resolution may have remained on the surface and even rolled off, because they had not yet been allowed time to get the junk out.

Conference Rooms
his is very similar to what I might do in a consultant’s or coach’s role. You raise an issue that stirs discontent or discomfort in a way that is healthy, honest, gracious and authentic. I might talk about how a lack of trust leads to poor communication and cooperation on a leadership team. Then I allow time for that to be processed in a way that I frame it in my talk. And I do it in a way that allows people to see themselves in the descriptions without making them to feel shamed. But I don’t resolve it. Then I offer that in the next session, we are going to talk about how to move from a protective posture, to one of openness and vulnerability, but in a straightforward way without all the touchy-feely stuff. I just can’t pull that off, thank goodness! Once they have dealt with the realities that have kept them from trust – or whatever issue is relevant - then I offer a solution. And by the time I do, the audience cannot wait.

Wrapping it Up
So this is far more than a device for ramping up engagement. It is that. But it is also a means of allowing you to exponentially increase the value of your message for those to whom it is presented. And adding value is what effective communication is all about. At least it should be.

Be encouraged!

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