Speaker vs. Communicator

Speaker vs. Communicator.png

Reflecting back on my notes from the Habitudes Intensive from two years ago, I’m still struck by the section comparing a speaker versus a communicator.

Strong speakers tend to be situationally dependent, they thrive in the front of the room needing strong control over the direction of the conversation and topic. Strong communicators meanwhile are capable of adapting to changing circumstances. Whether that conversation is in front of 300 people or a one-on-one coffee meeting.

The most significant difference however between a speaker vs a communicator is where the emphasis is placed…speakers focus heavily on techniques and how they are perceived. Communicators focus on their audience and are responsive to their needs. Simply, speakers are successful when they have performed their speech as they practiced to near perfection; meanwhile, communicators are successful when the audience or person has experienced a met need.

I deeply admire the life and work of Ronald Reagan. During his time as president he was known as “The Great Communicator”. His ability to engage in disarming conversations with anyone he meet was incredible and was built from years traveling as a GE Spokesperson meeting with everyday factory workers. Reagan knew how to read the room and adjust his communication and message to meet the needs of those he visited.

As educators our focus should be set on being better communicators through every facet of our lives whether in the classroom or at home. The book the Choice: In Teaching and Education provides further insight on pages 18 and 19 about our Speaker vs. Communicator conversation:

Principle 1 – I Am Not The Teacher

“I have had great teachers, and poor. I have listened to exciting lectures, and bland. I have been entertained, and lulled to sleep.

Despite their obvious differences, these educational experiences share a regrettable similarity: I remember almost nothing any of these teachers ever said.

It is surprising to realize that over time I remember as little that comes from a gifted speaker’s mouth as from the mouth of one who has bored me.

But it’s the truth — a truth I too often forget. Such as when I feel the need to perform in front of a class. Or when my focus is to have class members rehearse information I have told them. Or when I care more about my teaching then their learning. 

In these moments, I have forgotten the first thing I as a teacher must never forget:

I am not the teacher. 

Let us remember to keep first things first, the students before us! Hope everyone has a great week back from a restful Labor Day weekend!

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