Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Speaking the Unspeakable (and you know what I'm talking about!)

In a recent Toastmaster competition, I decided to cover about a subject to which members only allude. It is usually referred to only euphemistically, sending the message that says, "You and I both know what I mean here, but I better not say it out loud." Yes, this dreaded topic is...
(drum roll, please)

Yes, let me repeat that. it's SEX!, for goodness sakes.
In a time when our children face unwanted pregnancies, the threat of sexually transmitted disease, and rampant misinformation, and disinformation, about the sexual relations. So I decided to take this on, and have fun in the process. (Click here to see the video.)
I wrote a speech about the time I spoke with my son, Francis, about sex. I needed to have this discussion with him earlier -- when he was only 8 years old. I thought there was a lesson in there, so I constructed this speech. However, I thought that it was risky to even approach this subject, so I followed this strategy:
  1. OPEN WITH A JOKE. This put the audience at ease right away.
  2. ACKNOWLEDGE THE SUBJECT OF THE SPEECH UP FRONT, ALONG WITH OUR RELUCTANCE TO SPEAK ABOUT IT. By doing this, the audience felt they were in on the joke. It also gave them "permission" to let themselves go and enjoy the speech. (However, it was then incumbent upon me to treat the subject with taste.)
  3. EMPATHIZE WITH THE AUDIENCE'S SENSITIVITIES. I acknowledged their own discomfort with the subject with humor and made myself one of the audience members in that regard.
  4. PUT THEM IN THE SITUATION. I was once advised TO "be the speech;" don't just deliver the speech. I introduced the audience to Francis by portraying him as a child, and I acted out the situation that led to the discussion.
  5. GIVE YOUR MORAL TO THE STORY. A subject as important as this doesn't exist in a vacuum. The story was not the very fact that I had the discussion with Francis. It was that I took my responsibilities as a father seriously and imparted my values to him. The moral I gave may not fit your morals, but I hope you would respect that, as I would respect whatever you chose to tell me.
The speech was well received, as you will hear when you view the video. More important, I felt that I had broken some ground with my colleagues in Toastmasters on tackling a previously verboten topic.

Monday, June 14, 2010

BP Teaches Us Just How Bad Communication Can Be

Let's get to the point: BP was not only unprepared for the oil spill they have caused, but they deceived the public, and possibly themselves, about their level of preparation.
I will turn this space to Mr. Dick Polman, columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. The utter incompetence of BP, combined with the company's mendacity, is stultifying.