Last week I went to my daughter’s kindergarten parent-teacher orientation night. My wife and I met the other parents, and our teacher reviewed the curriculum, customs and rules of the classroom.
One of the weekly customs is Sharing Day, when a selected child stands in front of the class and tells a five-minute story about something that happened recently. It can be a story about anything, but preferably one she’s passionate about. The only limitation is that she can’t use any physical objects or props. The teacher explained that this method makes children accountable for creating and rehearsing their narratives ahead of time. It also fosters their ability to express themselves with full presence and animation, absent crutches and distractions.
As I sat there at my daughter’s table in her five-year-old-sized chair, I couldn’t help but think about what a wonderful practice this is, one that could benefit many corporate cultures. Too often, we become desensitized to meetings and presentations precisely because they are filled with props, especially decks and printouts. Those can be helpful or even necessary at times, but they tend to discourage story creation and rehearsal. They propagate dispassionate delivery to the tempo of slide transitions.
If you can remove those crutches and require that information be communicated in a fast-paced narrative, it will result in a more passionate delivery, with the most important information prioritized. This already happens formally in some fields. For example, the “daily scrum” (or “daily standup”) in the popular agile software development method is similar to the Sharing Day method. But there is much room for further adoption.
Kindergarten Lesson: If you have something important to say, distill it to the core issue. Transform it into a narrative, with a build-up of tension, climax and resolution. Rehearse it. Then stand up and tell it like you really, really mean it.
This essay also appeared in MediaPost. Photo by Mark Zastrow.