After Hurricane Sandy hit in October of 2012, I was able to volunteer on the Jersey Shore, helping people that lost their homes (or had serious damage) clean up the mess that was left behind.
I worked with a team of 10 friends as we helped one home owner remove cabinets, counters, floor boards, and doors. Everything had to be hauled to the curb (as in carried uphill through the sand) as bulldozers came and removed the debris. Every homeowner on the street was doing the same. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for those that lost everything and yet at the same time be happy to help.
The amount of support offered by volunteers was amazing. In fact, our team worked through an organization that provided food and hot beverages while organizing all the work efforts. It was quite an operation!
Team Leaders (yes, that was me) received a work order with the homeowner’s name and the nature of the job. We were given tools, masks, and gloves and sent with our marching orders. Before taking on a project, we attended an orientation to learn more about the process. Our team, along with maybe 80 people, assembled in a room to be briefed.
The coordinator was great about explaining the condition of some of the homes, along with the safety measures, supplies and equipment, food and beverage, breaks, hydration, and time-frames. He also went into detail about the attitude of the homeowners and how to deal with their situations. He kept reminding us that we were in their homes and to show respect, compassion, and understanding. Treat them like the boss, he said. His points couldn’t have been more important.
When we got into the truck to head to the job site, I mentioned what a great job the coordinator had done with his orientation. One of my friends said if the coordinator said “um” one more time, he was going to snap. Some of the other members of my posse said the same thing. It became comic relief at a serious time, but he made a good point.
You don’t need to be Zig Ziglar to speak to a bunch of volunteers about hot chocolate and bathroom breaks, but you do want to avoid anything that’s going to detract from your message — especially when it’s important.
Here are five quick tips on how to deliver a more powerful message in any situation.
1. Do a practice run.
Yes, this seems obvious, but practice alone does not make perfect. Practice with feedback and then application of that feedback makes perfect. (Not as catchy I know.) Deliver your demo in front of a small group of people that you like, trust and respect. Get their feedback about your talk, apply the advice that makes the most sense, and do the presentation again with the same group. If you have the time, you can deliver to multiple groups and get different perspectives. The feedback you get may be about verbal pauses (ums, ahs, likes), looking at notes, eye contact, tone of voice, volume, and clarity of message. Zig would be proud!