We all know that if – before any meeting, discussion, or even an important conversation – we prepare ourselves by thinking carefully about what we want to achieve and how we’re going to achieve it, the result will be far better than if we just go in cold and hope for the best. What we say, and how we say it, can be critically important.
Here is a series of steps you can take that will help you prepare the language you’ll need if you’re going to get the result you want:
1. What is the purpose of the meeting, discussion or conversation? Who will be present?
2. What is your role? Who will you be speaking to? What will you be saying? Will you be presenting? Proposing? Explaining? Asking questions or answering them?
3. Depending upon the nature of the encounter, think of what you’re most likely to have to say – particularly your opening comment(s) if you’re leading the discussion – and any key issues you want to raise, points you want to make, questions you plan to ask, or answers you expect you’ll have to give.
4. Write these down as you think of them and then go back and turn them into good sentences. (If you’re in a course, bring these to class so that together with the trainer you can polish them.)
5. Practice the sentences so that they become second nature and you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to construct them when it comes time to speak.
6. Come prepared to your classes so that you can role-play the language for each situation with the trainer until you are confident in your ability to deliver it well whenever it’s needed.
7. But . . . remember that the pursuit of perfection can be the enemy of effective communication, and that sometimes it’s better to continue to speak out firmly and confidently even if you stumble or realise you’ve made a mistake. Doing so will make you far easier to listen to than if you hesitate and backtrack as you struggle for 100% correctness.
8. Recognise too that that each situation you prepare for in this way will strengthen your ability to perform well even when you’re faced with a situation you haven’t rehearsed – and that the more preparation practice you have the more effective you will become.