Happy New Year, of course… so, another year just about to begin (he can’t sue me). You learn a lot in a year. So, what did we learn last year (well, what did I learn last year to be grammatically accurate)? Well, apart from avoiding clichés like the plague (and trying to avoid politics), a few things…
As somebody who stands up doing training 3-5 days a week, public speaking holds little fear for me (and I MC Comedy Events and I also had to give not only a Father of the Bride speech and five, yes, FIVE Best Man speeches, no, don’t ask) it is still fascinating that the very thought of standing up in public and speaking still strikes the fear of you-know-what into so many people. Glossophobia it’s called, apparently, (go on, Google it) and it is just one of those irrational fears that people have, like cotton wool, fish and semi-colons. More of which later.
The enthusiasm that somebody showed when they finally realised how to use a semi-colon was wonderful
When asking for people’s objectives on our presentations or public speaking courses, most people, and I mean 99%, want to know “how to not be nervous” when standing up. And my answer is a very disconcerting “You can’t”. And you can’t. But you need to have butterflies to perform, you just need them flying in formation (what did I say about clichés?).
It really is amazing, when we look back over 2019, what we have trained people in. Much of which are what we would call “the basics”. When analysing training needs we have skills, knowledge and attitude (as well you know) and we spend most our time training skills, mostly, but that has a huge impact on attitude of people (in this case, confidence). But it’s amazing how much attitude is really what we impact on by giving people confidence and/or making them more aware of what they do, why they do it and how to improve that.
Semi-colons are cool
Having problems with “text writing”? If so, you’re not alone and there was a growth in demand for “business writing”, which covers a multitude of sins but most often boils down to grammar (and not writing txt speak). Grammar, such an old fashioned concept, bizarrely also has an impact on attitude; once you know “the rules” you (literally) gain in confidence to write more better. (Yes, the “literally” and “more better” things are jokes. Grammar jokes. We couldn’t make them without knowing “the rules.” If you don’t, you may not find this funny.) The idea of giving people the “basics” seems to be almost forgotten now but once you get the basics you can build from there.
We are amazed that people lap up the “rules” of grammar. We shouldn’t be; knowledge is, after all, power. Knowledge of how to communicate effectively if such a useful weapon to have.
Oh, and so you know, semi-colons signal a longer pause than a comma but shorter than a full stop and suggest a stop in the flow of the sentence. Though we suggest to people that they may be better off eschewing them. And telling them what eschew means and even when to use (sic).
Good writing is effortless reading that makes you want to read more. It is clear and concise, uses short sentences and simple words. It keeps to the facts and is easy to read and to understand. It is so clear, the reader can take in the writer’s exact message in one reading. For most of us, good writing doesn’t come naturally, it’s a skill we need to learn. However, you can learn to write well using plain language principles. Unlike this example we use:
“BBC staff have been told to use non-binary pronouns when addressing gender-fluid or transgender employees to ensure that the corporation does not develop a ‘heteronormative culture’. W P Reed wondered what we made of the following from the DWP. Not a clue! The decision maker has proceeded to consider whether regulation 29 & 35 of the Employment and Support Allowance regulations apply to X and has decided that he suffers from a specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and by reason of that condition there would be substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if he were found not to have limited capacity for work.”
Yes. They are still out there.
People hate making speeches (“The mind is a wonderful thing, starts working the moment you are born and stops as soon as you stand up to make a speech”) almost as much as broad generalizations but most of this is in the mind. Most audiences, and the audience is really what people fear, are really willing anyone making a speech or presentation to succeed, as it would be embarrassing if they failed in front of them. They are on your side.
Structuring and delivering a speech/presentation isn’t brain surgery (only brain surgery is), but we still see some horrendous presentations/speeches (reading a slide, monotone, reading from notes, dull, too long, inappropriate jokes). Errors that are so easy to correct with a little bit of input.
And when we work with people it truly is amazing that people want to learn and take to learning so easily and quickly, once given the correct input and encouragement.
The enthusiasm that somebody showed when they finally realised how to use a semi-colon was wonderful (see how we linked there?), though it kind of saddened us that this hadn’t happened at school (well, it might have, in defence of teachers).
The glow of a newly found or remembered skill in a delegate is reward for all the “hard work” we trainers put in.
ILT is the preferred route
The ability for people to make excellent speeches without notes with a bit of training/coaching is humbling. People just have so much talent, if you look for it. And unearth it.
It shows us that complicated, high tech, high level training is sometimes not what is required. Never forget that if the basics aren’t there, they can’t be built upon.
Despite all the talk of “blended learning” (and we do have book out on Speech Making, just released!), ILT still is the learning route of choice. It’s Instructor Led Training, of course. The kick-start to real learning and application.
Training isn’t a one-off: it’s a continuous process
And every day’s a day at school. And never try to teach a pig to whistle, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.
We’ve been lucky in 2019, we’ve had no pigs. But we’ve learned loads. And we’ll keep learning in 2020. We hope you will too. Happy 2020.