Sharing your knowledge in staff meetings or as a key note speaker can be challenging. How will you make the information interesting? How will you surprise people by sharing information in a way that is new to them?
Wrap your learning points in a story.
Tap into your life experience and you will find delivery methods unique to you! Key experiences or relationships are the perfect go-to place for context in which you can frame learning points.
For example, one Christmas morning several years ago, we were surprised to find a stray calf on our lot. Attempts to find her herd were unsuccessful – she must have traveled quite a distance to find her way to me. As she grew and we got to know each other, that calf changed my life and provided an extraordinary experience with the first large animal I’d raised. She became somewhat of a mascot in our little mountain community, and, as a result, she brought many people into my life who wanted to meet her and photograph her. I was forced to relocate her because a property owner reported me for breaking community association bylaws and although that broke my heart, the situation turned out great for her. The reason I share these few details with you is the story is filled with emotion and makes a perfect authentic platform for shared learning.
You can see our story on my YouTube video: Snow Flower the Pet Cow
As a communication skills expert, I’ve been asked to kick off company events as the key note speaker. I created a handout for one of those presentations with the learning points below and a photo of me and Snow Flower. From telling them about our daily rituals and the process of getting to know each other, to the moment she warned me of a nearby bear and wanted to protect me, this true story translates beautifully to the defining moments of human relationships. No PowerPoint was needed and they all had something they could take away. The audience loved it.
Communication Tips I Learned From My Cow
Catherine Goggia, Certified Training Specialist
- Eye contact speaks volumes.
- You can be playful and still get your needs met.
- Consistent communication does not require long sentences.
- Being present is more powerful than the gift of gab.
- Looking out for each other is demonstrated more by actions than words.
If this approach is going to work for you, you need to take your audience there, to that moment, that day, that time in your life, by telling a terrific story. Establish a consistent format for sharing each learning point; something you say before each of the main points. In this way the audience is flagged to pay close attention, even though they might be caught up in the story you are sharing.
I used the same technique when I delivered a customized course for a team who requested conflict management training. I referred back to a day when I was fishing with my father. We were out on the lake, a good distance from the shore. What I didn’t know was we were over a road, and although we were far away from the shore, the water was shallow. When I got hot, I decided to dive in the water. My feet had already left the side of the boat when I heard my dad yell. Miraculously I was only stunned and sore; I was lucky I didn’t break my neck.
Conflict Navigation Techniques I Learned When Boating
- The reality of the situation – facts – might be different from how the situation appears. Different people might have differing sets of facts which impact their decisions and actions.
- Before diving head first into the water, check with other people in the boat to find out if we are in shallow or deep water. People who have been boating in this area for years may have facts that differ from those who are new to this boat ride.
- How the people in the boat respond to your inquiry impacts your interpretation of the facts, your decisions and your actions.
- The people in the boat might have:
- Complete facts
- Current facts
- Incomplete facts
- Outdated facts
- No facts at all; opinions stated as facts
- Experience that qualifies them as experts
Facts dialogue indicators – people in the boat site their source:
“According to… (site source or expert) something I read, saw, or what (expert) said…”
Dialogue option: “Based on (data)…” Note: we have to gather, analyze and communicate accurate data if this approach is to have credibility.
Another option: “Based on my experience…”
Facts: “According to the 1959 map I reviewed in preparation for our boating adventure, there is a road that runs below the water in this area. The map gave me an idea of what this location looked like before it was filled with water. It could be dangerous to dive into the water here.”
Incomplete facts: “My Grandfather told me that there are places on the lake that are dangerously deceiving because it can look like we are off shore and in deep water, when in fact, the water might only be five feet deep.”
Expert Experience: “As I child I went boating in this area with my family. I didn’t tell anyone that I was planning on jumping into the water, I just got up and dove in. Before I hit the surface of the water, I could hear my Dad yelling at me in a panic. My hands pushed back in the water as a natural instinct when diving and I drove my head right into the ground. The pain was blinding. Based on my experience, it’s not safe to dive into the water at this location. However, if we move to another location, I might be willing to jump in feet first. ”
No facts, opinion stated as fact, non-productive input: “I’m sure it’s fine to dive in. It’s really hot out here. We should dive in because it’d be stupid not to get in the water.”
No facts, opinion shared as discussion point: “In my opinion, it’s best to test the depth of the water before anyone dives in. I’ll use the back ladder to get in the water and check it out.”
No facts, offering logical suggestion: “I haven’t been on this lake before, but if we just drive out to the bridge, the water should be deep enough to enjoy a refreshing swim.”
Non-productive attitude that makes boating less enjoyable: “It’s not my job to know about water depth. I deserve to go on the boat ride simply because I’m taking up space in the boat. I know I should update my skills and learn how to swim, but I didn’t have to swim at the last lake – no one can make me swim, even if I’m getting paid to swim. It’s not my fault that I’m too out of shape mentally/physically to help myself and others during this boating adventure.”
In an effort to enjoy the boating experience, it’s useful to establish a goal before we get in the boat.
- One person might want to water ski for most of the day.
- One person might want to explore new sections of the lake all day long, take pictures, and stop frequently to dig for crystals.
- One person might want to find a secluded place to float, fish, picnic and read.
- One person might want to find the most social place on the lake, meet new people and socialize all day.
- If you don’t know what you want and why it’s important to you, it isn’t productive to say something like, “I don’t know what I want, but I know I don’t want to do anything you guys want to do.”
- After the goal has been established, the process to meet the goal can be developed, agreed to and followed. The process is dependent on understanding priorities, identifying obstacles, planning to overcome the obstacles, and creating accountability by establishing realistic time frames.
- We need to make sure that someone can drive the boat. Role definition and clarity within the team is key to minimizing and resolving conflict. Role definition and common understanding about roles is key to effective process development.
- Who can back the vehicle down the boat ramp?
- Who can get the boat off the trailer?
Note: role definition and common understanding about roles is important before we begin the boat ride on the lake.
- Who will drive the boat?
- Will different people take responsibility for steering the boat at various steps in the process?
- Are there people who need additional training or resources before they are ready to steer the boat?
- Who is the person who doesn’t like to drive, but gets invited because they make delicious food? (A variety of talents and qualities is important for a terrific boating experience).
- Who is the person who consistently refuses to wear their safety vest, but they are so much fun they are invited to participate in the boat ride?
- Who has the authority and skill to fix situations – manage people and tasks?
- Who has the authority and skill to fix equipment?
If you lead weekly or monthly staff meetings, it’s important to use creativity to provide unexpected value for people. This is one method you can try. Then, at the next meeting, present your material in a different way. You can also challenge employees to present material using this method. In this way, the responsibility for quality meetings is shared.
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