One of the joys of my life is to teach. Whether it’s from a stage in front of thousands, in a more intimate setting with a hundred young adults, or just in my living room with my beautiful kids, I love setting up “aha” moments, seeing the light bulbs go on, feeding the curiosity, and developing a hunger to learn.
Over the years, it’s been a mostly fun but often frustrating and insecurity inducing journey to develop my speaking style.
To be clear, I LOVE all styles of speaking. Well, most styles. I love seminar style TED talks, charismatic preachers that make the lessons come alive, storytellers that place you in the middle of the action, comedians that make you belly laugh, and motivators that can duplicate their passion within your soul. And for so much of my life, I tried to be like them. Study them. Mimic them. And often failed. The problem was the more I became like them, the more I felt fake. Like I was acting. Like I was just presenting information. Like I was betraying who I was made to be. I needed to find my style.
I also love to help other communicators find their voice. So many of them have become far better speakers than I’ll ever be. That’s not humility. Just reality. I’m good with it.
One of the things that they tell me has been helpful is when I walk them through the simple process I use for preparing lessons. It’s not profound. It’s not sophisticated. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t come up with it. If you know who did, let me know so I can give them due credit!
It’s just M.U.D. Make your message clear as M.U.D.
Let me walk you through it.
People will never retain any information they don't remember.
This is where you use creative illustrations or locations or methods or tokens to anchor it in their hearts and minds.
- Talking about team? Go to the 50 yard line of a stadium or a baseball field.
- Talking about dreaming big? Drive out to the Field of Dreams in Iowa or to the Ocean.
- Talking about time management? Fill up a huge jar with ping pong balls each representing a work day in a year.
- Talking about gossip? Rip a pillow open and let a fan blow the feathers around symboling the fact that once it's out, it spreads.
You get the point.
Your job isn't to just communicate bullet points. It's to make it memorable.
Make them say “I’ll never forget that!”
So how do you make your message MEMORABLE?
People will never action on something they don't understand.
What some people call deep is actually just confusing.
If your students don't understand what you're saying, it may not be because they’re too dumb or you're too smart. It may mean you aren't making the content understandable and that’s on you.
The best teachers...the smartest teachers...know the information so well that they are able to make complicated info understandable.
The cool part is if you can make the content comprehensible to a 10 year old, it'll actually force you to understand the content better.
In order to make information portable, it must first be understandable.
Your job isn't to make your listeners think you're smart. It's to make them feel smart.
Make them say “I get it!”
So, how do you make your message UNDERSTANDABLE?
People will never do something they don't know how to do.
I really believe that people don't eat well, exercise, change careers, deal with destructive behavior, or build healthy relationships because they get overwhelmed with the next 100 steps.
- Before we run a marathon, start by running 400m without walking.
- Before we build a healthy marriage, start by making a list of things to apologize for.
- Before we develop a thriving spiritual life, start by taking 5 minutes to pray each day.
Your job as a teacher is to make the big idea APPROACHABLE. To take the thing that they’ve been saying “I’ve tried and failed at that so many times. I can never do that” and give them the next right step.
Make it possible.
What I see too often is when we give people 20 action steps embedded in 3 points and 6 sub-points. That’s like telling the runner at the starting line to run in 10 different directions and firing the starting gun.
The one right thing you actually do is always more productive than the 20 steps you learn about but never do anything about.
Give them one action step. Give them a doable win.
Make them say “I can do that!”
So, how do you end your message in a way that makes it DOABLE?
So that’s the unsophisticated process I use to prep messages. It works really well to keep me balanced, helpful and practical.
Usually the messages that I felt like really hit home had all three elements. The ones that have just one were good but something was missing.
How about you? What do you use? What have you heard other people use that was helpful for them?