Corrective Repetition

Presentation skills training is a rare privilege in the career of a rep.  I myself had a solitary half-day course in some central Birmingham hotel given as part of a national roadshow by a national training company.  And the truth about their views are that they added for me practically zero value beyond what I had already gleaned from business academia exercises, as it was more about ‘overcoming the fear of public speaking’ and ‘preparation essentials’ (albeit the latter is vital) rather than structures, themes and delivery.

Similarly, Pitching skills are a woefully under-nourished area of selling needs.  The most I’ve enjoyed in classroom conditions is barely an hour on this, yet I found it spellbinding. When I give courses to my customers (usually of an ad hoc nature for a small session as part of an overall sales conference agenda) I often choose to polish people’s pitch skills and salespeople regularly comment gratefully afterwards on its usefulness.

Most of us progress such capabilities through in-field analysis.  A sentence that goes down well in one circumstance you tend to remember and use again, perhaps with some evolution, in as many other situations as you can.

As the soundbite culture becomes ubiquitous, the pressure is subconsciously on to utter a phrase, just a few seconds in length, that people favourably remember you by.  Whether making a formal presentation, or an informal pitch, I was introduced to a new slant on this by way of Clarence Mitchell, the official spokesman for the family of missing toddler Madeleine McCann.

With a possible new lead two years on, he’s again been receiving airtime this week.  And I realised he uses a specific technique that I suspect he hopes will hammer home his desired message to the casual listener.

People in his profession get precious little time to get their views across.  I counted the words he spoke (as shown every quarter of an hour on the rolling news channel summaries yesterday) and in both the two versions of his statement shown, I calculated that each featured just three sentences.  This screentime contained either 102 or a mere 47 words.

Could you get every (any) point across in just 47 words?

And even in such a short space of time, one technique was such that it must be deliberate.  He regularly emphasised one particular word, then said it again immediately afterwards, but preceded by an adjective, in a manner that makes you think he’s correcting himself.

For instance, I feel that he aimed to leave the viewer in no doubt that serious people were on his side, calling them “detectives, retired detectives”.  Each time he wanted to elevate the impact of a word, he would use this ploy.

It struck me as a fascinating oral technique.  How often do you find yourself wanting to really ram home one particular word, but realise that outright repetition could scupper your steer?  Perhaps what you can do instead is Mitchell-ise the word.  Think of as many enhancing adjectives, and each time you mention the key word, use a different phrase immediately after with the two words together and carry on as normal.

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