Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 23, 2010

Coaching #1

“You did a magnificent job.” Laurie’s face glowed in affirmation as we walked back to the government vehicle. Coming from a no-nonsense, straight-shooting, call-it-as-you-see-it kind of woman, ‘magnificent’ was a powerful adjective. I knew that I had 34 people’s attention; I knew that I had made Arches more accessible and more interesting to the group; I knew that their body language indicated they were enjoying themselves.

I also was very aware that my newness at this exposed some definite flaws. I was missing the comfortable flow of the walk/talk, lacked several useful transitions as we moved from stop to stop, and was (gulp) winging it for my all-important conclusion. At least I have no shortage of enthusiasm and passion, which can compensate for some shortcomings.

The face wasn't part of the debrief. I added it later.

A few hours later, Laurie sat me down for the official debrief. My whole talk was now summarized there on the butcher paper in front of me, marked colorfully to delineate themes, locations, topics, universal concepts, and tangible teaching items.

I marveled. It looked SO much more crisp and focused on the wall than it did in my brain.

The coach’s job is to dissect it so she can help you make it even better the next time… see clearly what is out of place, where pieces are missing, what will help the visitors make intellectual and emotional connections with this place. I began scribbling copious notes as she made observations and asked questions like “Why did you talk about junipers there?” or “How could you get more audience participation at this stop?” or “What could you say that will reinforce the human connection?”

I need to create a theme, one sentence, narrow, concise...

It became clear that I needed to abandon the shotgun approach — tidbits about everything in the canyon — and aim instead for a narrow focus of what I wanted them to come away with. My New Improved talk will zero in on adaptations that ensure survival in a harsh and mysterious environment.

What a gift to have been given several hours of this trainer’s time. I can’t wait to lead this walk again.

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7 Comments »

  1. It’s always a balancing act. The more ‘comfortable’ you become with a presentation, the less spontaneous you tend to become – and audiences pick up on this. When you have just the right amount of apprehension or ‘stage fright’ it can be a powerful antidote to sounding like a ‘canned spiel’.
    When the day comes that you are not feeling some apprehension before a talk, it’s probably time to take some new risks.
    And always remember – ‘you da woman!’

    Comment by leroque — March 23, 2010 @ 10:37 am | Reply

  2. Kathryn, you are such a Leo!

    Comment by Ed Oak — March 23, 2010 @ 10:58 am | Reply

    • Honestly, Ed, I TOTALLY KNEW you were going to say that.

      Comment by kath56ryn — March 23, 2010 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

  3. It’s sad to read your daily entries and know how miserable you are out there. Miserable co-workers, miserable roommates, miserable environment…..

    Comment by john — March 23, 2010 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  4. mmmm-for some of us, shotgun approach isn’t bad – I’m interested in almost everything. Geology, ecology,zoology, botany, archeology, meteorology, history – bring it on.
    I always thought the public ed/tours/campfire talks would be your forte (sic). I can’t figure out how to get the little accent mark with this gadget (o.k., skip the technology in the above list)!

    Comment by chrisyoungman — March 25, 2010 @ 7:31 am | Reply

    • Me too. But my boss wants all that other good stuff left for Q&A time after the laser-focused walk. I’ll hit about half the things on your list…

      Comment by kath56ryn — March 25, 2010 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  5. I just know that you are an excellent tour guide…wish I could go along!! I enjoyed the photo album of the fiery furnace…some pictures were postcard perfect!! Unbelievable country! I enjoyed talking to you on the phone…

    Comment by Kathy Lewis — March 25, 2010 @ 9:01 pm | Reply


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