There are two times a peace builder has to be persuasive, has to pitch and present. Typically, peace builders (similar to many other professionals) are good at one and poor at the other:
In a small group: Small groups (anywhere between 2 people and 10 people) are where peace builders can either shine or fail based upon their own personal hang-ups, tics, and character traits. Connecting with a handshake (increasing cooperation) and making eye contact (in the Western world at least) facilitates navigation of connection.
In a small group though, the delicate balance is between speaking too much (pitching) and not listening enough. The balance bears out its presence (or lack of) in the ultimate small group presentation, the meeting. Most meetings represent a poor use of a peace builder’s mental and emotional resources, because the same traits guiding the peace builder in smaller groups, fail when the group grows larger.
In a large group: Large groups (anywhere from 10 people up to stadiums of people) are places where peace builders (like many other folks) sometimes try to “scale up” the skills that made them formidable in personalized interactions: This where peace builders “lean in” on those skills to mask their inexperience, their nervousness, or their lack of knowledge/interest/passion about a subject.
In a large group, the delicate balance is between presenting with passion and rambling. This balance can be coached, but the real problem is getting the peace builders ego out of the way and getting into a stance of learning, thus preparing the peace builder to succeed. And letting props, slides, and other presentation crutches fall by the way side.
Every peace builder should train in how to connect in a small group to other people, by using the skills they already know from the peace building table, of active listening, active engaging, eye contact, and paraphrasing. Every peace builder train in how to connect with a much larger group (either a meeting sized group or a larger group) by tapping into their passion and energy, knowing their subject inside and out, and using tools like Powerpoint as visual storytelling aids, not crutches.
But too many peace builders—like many other professionals—don’t spend enough time preparing for presentations, don’t think that such preparation is necessary (except at the point of actually having to present), and many peace builders view such training as another “nice to have” but not a “critical to succeed.”
Presenting effectively still matters in a world of instant information (and sometimes instant wrong information about how to resolve conflict). Peace builders should shift their thinking, or someone more persuasive will change the audience’s thinking, about the efficacy of getting to peace.
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By Jesan Sorrell