Presentation Dilemma

One of the challenges of any presentation is the use of visual aids, do we use them or not. Today, powerpoint is in constant use and there is rarely an indoor presentation that does not have some form of electronic media to accompany it. However, not everyone is won over by powerpoint and its virtues, usually because they have witnessed more poor presenations than positive ones.

There is one school of thought that says that visuals distract from the message and that the only visual required is that of the message bearer…..you are the visual identity. Others scream for slide decks of quotes, images and text that support the speech bearer. Which route is best? Oratory skill is sadly lacking today and the need for visual is usually because the skill of oratory has been neglected or under developed…truth is, go with whatever helps the message stick with your listeners.  What message do you seek to convey? Does the visual aid support or detract from this message? Answering these questions will help you determine the best approach.

Estates – Not a Dirty Word

In conversation recently, I was sharing with someone about the way in which we regularly stigmatise people who live on estates by our language choices. In my opinion, this can be is unfair, unhelpful and may often be discriminatory. It was that same week that I discovered a book that described my frustrations in a far more articulate manner. The following 2 quotes were of particular note for me:

In newspapers and on television, every reference to a council estate is prefixed with the word ‘tough’, as though bare-knuckle boxing is the leisure activity of choice for every British person who doesn’t own their own home. It does its stigmatizing work as intended. Estates are dangerous, they imply: don’t visit them, and whatever  you do, work as hard as you can so you don’t have to live on them.
you only have to say the word ‘estates’ for someone to infer a vast amount of meaning from it. It’s a bruise in the form of a word: it hits the nerves that register shame, disgust, fear and, very occasionally, fierce pride.
Quotes from: “Estates: An Intimate History” by Lynsey Hanley

Our language choices matter. Living in the North End of Birkenhead as a child, going to the local primary school near the docks, I never thought of it as ‘tough’ – it was home, a safe place and a place where I belonged. Now, as I hear stories of the area where I grew up, the impression given is somewhat different. Yes, there are troubled people, but this is true anywhere, this place is still home to many, still a place of belonging and a place of fierce loyalty and pride.

My hope is that in our language choices, we begin to honour and respect others before we ‘stigmatise’ them. When we hear the word ‘estate’, we need to remember that it is not a dirty word and never should be.

Communication meltdown

Have you ever been in a situation where the discussion has involved the lack of communication? Yes? It would be quite surprising if you had not. However, it is also illuminating to know that often the criticism regarding communication is usual poor/bad communication too.

If you hear someone say, “I have not been told!”, this can also mean any of the following;
‘I knew from someone else but it was not you that told me’
‘I had been told from someone else but I wanted to hear it from someone higher in the chain of authority’
‘I saw it an email chain but nobody physically told me’
‘I may have overheard it in a conversation between others but I was a bystander’
‘I may have been told but have forgotten’
….and so the list could go on.

Communication is an art….it is not just about speaking/communicating the words but also understanding how they will be received.

: “going nowhere jobs”….excuse me? Poor communication.

The way we communicate and the things that we say are so important. It can be a little harder for those in church contexts because levels of expectation can be different.
This weekend, one church service, that I attended, had an opening to a sermon that got things completely wrong. The person speaking/preaching used an illustration that gave all the wrong messages. The introduction to the sermon spoke of a less glamorous job and described it as “going nowhere” and worthless. It was poor and I was really surprised and am left disappointed in the illustration, the message conveyed and the environment in which it was said.
How do we respond to this? How do we reflect on poor communication?
Firstly, we need to understand that the speaker (in the cold light of day) would not agree with the sentiments they expressed. They were trying to open up a long sermon with an illustration that captured people’s attention – it certainly captured attention, but for all the wrong reasons, it was poor communication and demonstrated a lack of thought. When speaking publicly we need to think through all our illustrations before we use them, you can’t be too careful.
Secondly, we need to weigh carefully the things we hear, understanding the speaker, the context and acknowledging that not all those that speak in a public context are experienced. Mistakes can happen!
Having a job is a blessing in current economic times, we cannot afford to dismiss those in less sought after positions, we should stand with them to encourage and support them. In truth we need to be more careful in our illustrations, in how we communicate and how we share any message.

listening but not hearing

Have you ever spoken in a meeting, clearly and accurately, only to discover that your words have been used in a way that you never intentioned?  often, when this happens, people will doubt themselves and their own communication ability.  That is not necessarily fair.

The ones listening will often have an agenda to their listening that will mean they are only hearing those things that support their agenda.  They have listened and what they have taken fits their own agenda items.  This can be overcome if you know their agendas – if you do not, it is impossible.

In all communication, know your audience, but if there are unknowns, dont beat yourself up when people are listening but never hearing.

Hodgson’s speech – context is everything here

The response to Roy Hodgson being appointed as the England Manager for the National Football team was one of shock as expectations had been firmly placed elsewhere.  This shock resulted in a wide response of upset and anger manifested against Roy as an individual.  It was into this context that his speech (use of the letter R was picked upon) was used to degrade him.

In themselves, the newspaper headlines were not horrific, after all we are used to “Wozzy” (Jonathon Ross) using humour for the same issue.  The real issue here, for me at least, was the context.  Hodgson was not wanted by the popular majority, people were angry that ‘their man’ was not even approached and so the press began its bandwagon against Hodgson, before his appointment was confirmed and the main point of attack was his speech.  It was not humour, it was a personal attack. Humour in the same light is reflected by the Fulham fans (whom he was once affiliated) having a banner that used the same tone but in a different context.

I believe that Hodgson was being bullied – my hope is that one day soon, he will be able to use humour against the very people who sought to knock him back.

Roy (great name too!) – I wish you well and trust that your ability and experience will be evident to all.