I want to start with a confession. I am about as far from being an artist as it is possible for a human being to be. My ability, even now, just about stretches to being able to colour in something and even then, I have been told that I often pick colours that no one else would ever dream of putting together. I guess that makes me unique!
What I did used to enjoy as a child were those “join the dots” drawings. Remember them? You would get a picture that looked like a map of an acne-sufferer’s skin. As you joined one numbered dot to the next, you would gradually draw something that looked a lot more like art and a lot less like something medicine might vaccinate against.
Good public speaking joins the dots for people. If you are a preacher, the dots you need to join are what the Bible says, what people are going through and what God is saying. For researchers, the dots might be your data, existing theory and real-world applications. For sales people the dots might be your product and the needs of your clients.
Remember that post I wrote about Listening First? This is where that stuff really comes into its own. After all, most of the dots you need to join are ones that you can only find by listening to people. What do your clients really want? What are the people in the audience really going through? What are the conversations going on in your field?
Here is an example from an article I wrote. Most professional translators used something called Computer Aided Translation software, or CAT, for short. Knowing what CAT does is less important than knowing that CAT has revolutionised translation. It has changed pricing. It has changed how jobs are handled and it has changed the status of translators.
While most professionals could tell you all about the changes in project management and pricing, few realised that their status was being changed too. A really interesting guy called Anthony Pym did. He wrote some brilliant research on the fact that CAT was actually pushing translators to the edges of their own profession as clients were seeing the translation as a tiny part of a longer value chain, and were ignoring the fact that translators know how to do a lot more than just exchange one sentence for another.
Sadly, not many professionals read his work. I wanted to help join the dots. This meant writing an article for a professional publication that took Pym’s work (and the work of a few other researchers) and showed how it was relevant for the everyday work of translators.
The point is that I could never have done that if I didn’t know what translators thought was relevant. I had to be aware of the conversations that were going on among translators to know what they would find interesting or useful.
You will always get an audience when you show how to apply something new in a way that makes a difference. You will always have people listening when you can start with what people already know and then challenge or improve it. The more you join the dots for people, they more they are ready to listen.