Despite delivering many a presentation through the years, I am constantly struck by how many people come up to chat afterward and tell me, in so many words, how smart I am. No braggadocio intended. It’s a function of viewing the person in the front of the room as the font of all wisdom.
As You Speak, So Should You Learn
How to deal with such flattery? Of course, “Thank you” is always a good start. Another idea: I mention that I often learn as much as teach. It’s important to keep in mind that communications is a two-way street, even when speaking before a large group there to gain your expertise.
To cite one example, one audience I addressed eagerly participated in an exercise designed to arrive at solutions that can help persuade reluctant leaders to sharpen their communications edge (the talk was titled “What to Do When the Boss Says No.” Thanks to this talented group of professionals, I gained some new ideas to incorporate into future strategic consulting opportunities. Some of the accumulated gems:
- Gain reinforcement from the boss’ peers, both internal and external.
- Encourage them to engage in self-assessment, and offer tools to do so.
- Seek access through their administrative assistants when you find the door shut (literally or figuratively).
- Insist on an ongoing program that improves their communications skills.
The larger lesson for all of us: Attune yourself to the moments during your presentations that can enhance your lifelong learning, then use them to build upon the knowledge you can deliver to others.
Think Long Term
Sustained professional development programs are best for achieving long-term effects. Such an approach helps to achieve long run benefits like a shinier reputation, a promotion on the job, victory before lawmakers and regulators.
Even among organizations that tip their caps to long-range professional and organizational goals, implementing any plan remains difficult: Participants are often left with little if any guidance. Their ongoing learning suffers, falling victim to a lack of direction and to other factors such as day-to-day professional and business demands, and diminishing motivation over time. Sure, the energy level is high at the conclusion of a workshop. But the yen to follow through fades quickly.
In today’s typical professional development environment, participants are often subjected to a single “one-off” session in which they are expected to learn everything in that instant. Legitimate attempts at learning are too often the exception, not the rule.
This article is an excerpt adapted from Ed Barks’ book, A+ Strategies for C-Suite Communications: Turning Today’s Leaders into Tomorrow’s Influencers. Barks, an IOM faculty member, assists clients in improving their messages and how they deliver them. He is President of Barks Communications and a former member of the National Press Club Board of Governors. Visit www.barkscomm.com to learn more, and contact Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 955-0600.