Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Do you keep telling us what you're going to tell us?

You've heard that old saying about public speaking, haven't you? "Tell us what you're going to tell us. Tell us. Tell us what you told us." It echoes the rule of three in message development, but it's been misused and misinterpreted by academics for years. And finally, that bad technique has been revealed for what it is--ineffective. Do you have an expert or spokesperson who uses this technique?

In An Academic Author's Unintentional Masterpiece, Geoff Dyer at once parodies the form and shares it with us by describing and quoting from a 2008 book, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before:
I’ll come to the rest of the book later. Here I will simply remark that the first page of Fried’s introduction summarizes what he intends to do and ends with a summary of this summary: “This is what I have tried to do in ‘Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before.’ ” The second page begins with another look ahead: “The basic idea behind what follows. . . . ” Fair enough, that’s what introductions are for, and it’s no bad thing to be reassured that the way in which the overall argument will manifest itself “in individual cases will become clear in the course of this book.” Page 3 begins: “The organization of ‘Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before’ is as follows. . . . ” Well, O.K. again, even if it is a bit like watching a rolling news program: Coming up on CNN . . . A look ahead to what’s coming up on CNN. . . .More striking is the way that even though we have only just got going — even though, strictly speaking, we have not got going — Fried is already looking back (Previously on “NYPD Blue” . . . )on what he did in such earlier books as “Art and Objecthood” and “Absorption and Theatricality.” The present book will not be like those earlier ones, however, “as the reader of ‘Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before’ is about to discover."
Dyer's beating the form to death to make a point, but if this sounds all too familiar, use it to reveal your experts' missteps to them when you coach them before an interview, speech or public presentation.  Yes, repetition is useful in helping the audience retain what you are saying...in moderation. But today's audiences are impatient for the point, not for hearing that your speaker is going to get to the point at some later point.

Want more help coaching your experts? Sign up for my August 24 workshop, Be an Expert on Working with Experts. If you sign up by August 5, you'll save $50 on your registration. It will share common issues and effective tactics communicators can use to coach experts and prepare them to communicate clearly to public, media, donor and legislative audiences. (Update: You can sign up for the February 1, 2012 version of this workshop here.)

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