Part Three of a Three-Part Series
by Corporal Greg Bettis, Holly Springs Police Department
In Part One, we established good breathing control to keep us teaching or speaking for hours without developing a weak and harsh voice. Part Two reviewed mechanical aspects of delivering a lively presentation to keep the hearer interested. This final section is about mentally preparing to present your material.
When I became a law enforcement instructor in 1989, I realized that my duty to give my very best outweighed every other professional commitment I had, other than protecting the Constitution. It didn’t take long to realize that doing my best as an instructor meant learning things that seemed un-exciting. But like an unpleasant medicine, I found the after-effect was better than the aftertaste. Let’s take the medicine so that others can remain healthy.
Actors speak of fiction as if it were truth, and too many instructors speak of truth as if it were fiction. They deliver truth in a manner that is lifeless and not believable. Our truth must be alive and easily grasped. Our presentation begins with mental preparation and getting our head in the game. And the first stop is visualizing how we expect our teaching segment to be accomplished.
Visualizing our presentation is to see what we are saying as if it were unfolding in front of us. How much more palatable are our ideas when we speak in terms of light, sounds, odors and tastes. This is speaking in picture form so the hearer more easily can see what you’re saying. We speak this way in everyday conversations. A student will rarely regurgitate your entire lesson but can easily grasp the concepts of your lesson. Create these moments by using creative and realistic ideas. Stir their emotional interest with direct connections to duty, winning a gunfight, protecting their family, etc. When they have caught the “why” of your lesson, they can be taught the “what” of your lesson. Help them connect the dots.
Live the mental images that are behind your words. See what you say so that your students may see them also. “We went fishing to get away” doesn’t have the same appeal as, “We were lying on the grassy bank with the warm sun on our faces, watching the bobber float tenderly over the ripples of cool water, and talking about the recent loss of our father.”
Behind your words should be unending streams of images that support your teaching point. Visualize what you say, and it will vitalize as you say it.
Preparation is crucial to vitalizing the delivery. I read of a man who placed an empty chair in front of him as he prepared his lesson, reminding him that he was preparing to deliver it to real people. Real people will be listening to us also. People who are officers that have years of experience, others who have just started their careers, some from other parts of the country with different backgrounds and experiences, busy people with minds that are racing, and the mentally slumbering who simply want to be somewhere else. Prepare for ALL of them. Know your audience and deliver straight to them. No general spraying of ideas and hoping that some if it sticks. Speak directly to them.
Vitalize your lesson by learning, not reading, your material. Do not memorize the lesson because it will sound as if you’ve memorized it. Learn it and believe it, and you’ll sound like what you’re saying is a part of you.
Several laws of learning apply at this point. Review the material frequently to place the concepts in your mind. Especially go over it the night before your delivery and again the next morning if possible. Frequency and recency lead to retention, which promotes recall. Understand the material, organize it for the hearer (not the presenter), know the logical ideas (concepts), and rehearse the thoughts. We should live the truth before delivering it to others.
When they believe that you believe, they’ll listen. Make them see what you’re saying. “Turn their ears into eyes.” They may not thank you, but you’ll sleep better knowing you gave your best.
Corporal Greg Bettis is the Department Training Officer and brings 26 years’ experience. He is a POST Master Instructor. Greg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.