I sometimes hear business executives say they have been “media trained.” What they mean is they have participated in a single communications training session. Such claims to perfect knowledge make me laugh and shake my head. They are no more media trained after a lone workshop than they are qualified to be a pilot after one airplane flight.
The key to becoming an effective communicator is lifelong learning. The old model held that everything we needed crammed into our heads occurred before we left college. That limited view is a recipe for failure in today’s world.
Those who claim to have been media trained are normally easy to spot. They are the ones whose skills are lacking because they fail to take the time to extend their learning beyond the four walls of the training classroom.
Let me level with you. I cannot magically transform you into a stellar speaker or sparkling news source in a single afternoon. What I can do is cover the basics and give you some practice time. Of equal importance, we can begin to construct a road map for lifelong learning.
The touchstone for success in the 21st century will be a constant parade of instruction that sharpens your knowledge, skills, and competence over the long haul. But it will only bear fruit if you agree to embrace lifelong learning with a positive attitude and a thirst for knowledge.
This should not be viewed as the forced drudgery of a teenager ordered to clean up his room. A vital component of lifelong learning, from my perspective, is to shine the learning light on what you are good at and what you enjoy. Yes, I encourage you to find your learning sweet spot and concentrate your efforts there, for that is where your improvement will come most quickly.
In today’s ever evolving environment, your career advancement opportunities and your personal development depend on what you discover as an adult. If you fail to engage in lifelong learning, you will soon witness your peers zipping past you on the career ladder. You will miss out on promotions and new jobs while they will be the ones getting the big raises.
From an organizational standpoint, the business with the most current knowledge wins, all other things being equal. If you, as an executive or manager, neglect to foster the learning of those who report to you, it won’t be long until you are tagged a failure.
The best resource to extend your lifelong learning and that of your team is to find yourself an expert communications training consultant – one who can help you sharpen your strengths and, over time, address your weaknesses.
Other avenues for improvement include publications, podcasts, professional development sessions, newspapers, and online articles. One note of caution: Screen carefully the sources you choose; there is a lot of bad information floating around out there.
What do I recommend as your next step on the road to lifelong learning? Establish a plan in concert with your consultant. Here are some areas to consider:
- Which skills do you want to sharpen?
- Which type of extended learning works best for you – videotape review? One-on-one sessions? Audio materials? Short articles? Books?
- Can you commit to reading one book per month from your local library about various aspects of oral communications skills?
- What formats do you enjoy most – presentations to small groups? Interviews with reporters from your local newspaper? Testimony before lawmakers?
- How can you prepare yourself to graduate from speaking before small internal audiences to larger external groups?
- Is your goal to go beyond the occasional quote in the trade publication that covers your industry and aim for The New York Times?
See to it that your plan includes a firm commitment to lifelong learning. Career and personal advancement come to those who truly understand that they will never be fully “media trained.”