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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