Sometimes the applications of your own research come to you in the most surprising ways.
Last week a colleague, David Elliot, who is familiar with my work on imagined conversations in the workplace sent me a story about how he used it in practice. He was in Boston training a group of 20 young political advocates on how to make a pitch to the media. His organization, Fair Share, is launching an advocacy campaign against federal education budget cuts.
As any good communications professional would do, he prepared a script or “pitch” for the young advocates. Scripted pitches help advocates make key points when they are talking to reporters. During the training, they broke up into small groups and the advocates-in-training rehearsed their pitches with each other. As he walked around listening to them practice, he noticed their pitches sounded flat. They sounded as if they were reading a script they had memorized.
So he brought them back together into one large group and challenged them. He told them about my work around imagined conversations and assigned them the task of spending the next 48 hours having imagined conversation involving them and the reporter they would be pitching the following week. Advising them based on what we know about visualization and conversational preparation, he suggested their imagined conversations include aspects like:
- How will your voice sound?
- How will you change the script in order to put it in your own words, in order to "own" it?
- How will your voice rise and fall as you make key points?
- How will you handled unexpected questions from the reporter?
My colleague let the trainees know that these kind of imagined conversations prior to important speaking events are a way that we can rehearse the scene and improve our confidence. Mental preparation, he reminded them, helps us to improvise in the moment to make our best pitch for what we believe.
As a researcher, I’m inspired by this application of my work. These young advocates are getting ready to speak out for what they believe. Good luck advocates-in-training! May your real-life pitches be as successful as you imagined!