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Be the Conductor


 This morning I was in church and got to watch one of the members of our pastoral staff give his first sermon to the congregation. It was obvious that when he went up there that he was nervous, anxious and wanted to do a good job with his message. He started out with a joke. I do think this is a tactic that many people employ when they start speaking in public. He was successful in getting not only himself calmed down but the audience as a whole, it offered a good deal of connection. It is this connection that is extremely important to establish regardless of where we find ourselves giving a presentation. I know when I was starting out with public speaking and training I would look for ways to connect and to get things moving.

The method of telling a joke to lighten the mood so to speak is one that has been used by a large number of people. Although used in the public speaking world joke needs to be used sparingly. A joke, before starting a presentation, needs to have a purpose that relates to the topic being discussed. The joke needs to advance or introduce the topic at hand or it just ends up wasting everyone's time. In other words, a joke that gets people laughing and does nothing to advance the point or story is simply taking up the limited time available to the speaker. This limited amount of time should not be taken up with unnecessary openings. Although the speaker at the start of this post did have a purpose, to relate and lighten the mood, he did not advance the topic. After he finished his joke he still had not moved us to the point necessary to receive his ideas.

It is the idea of movement that needs to be kept in the front of our minds as we prepare to give a presentation. I heard an apology of public speaking once although I have long forgotten the source the picture has stayed with me. The speaker at this instance related speaking to the conductor on a train, that conductor was responsible for ensuring that people came along for the ride and made it to the final destination. He made sure to mention where they started from and the end goal before the train ever got moving. Once the train was moving a good conductor would mention certain landmarks along the way and then say how each landmark was closer to the final destination. Then just before reaching the final stop the conductor would finish up and wish everybody a safe day at the destination he led them to. Although different techniques were used, a joke is but one of them, the conductor always made sure that the audience was moving with him to the final stop. All aspect of the presentation were given with the end in mind.

It is keeping the end foremost in our thoughts in all that we attempt to achieve as a trainers and as coaches. Having a clearly stated goal and end is the key to developing our points and ideas. All that we do should stress where we want to end up. It is my opinion that know our end the steps necessary to achieve that end which separates the great presenters, facilitators, teachers, and coached from those that are mediocre. Figure out what you wish to accomplish, and then take the steps needed to accomplish that goal

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