Re: Technically Speaking

Subject: Re: Technically Speaking
From: "John Fleming" <johntwrl -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 17 Aug 2002 02:11:39 +0000

Yabbut, and the point of all this too..., tech writing and
public speaking are two different animals. The classic
structure of the two different communication techniques
are different.

That is an interesting way of looking at things--on a structural level.

I often concentrate on the differences in language use.

Open up your speech text book. You see very specific
structures for persuasive presentations, informative
presentations, etc. Just as in a tech writing text book
you see structures for reports, technical manuals,
proposals, etc. We tend to forget that what works for
one does not necessarily work for the other.

You're right. They don't.

I knew a writer once who tried to speak as he wrote, and it was more than a bit painful to listen to at times.

The different styles are designed to compensate for the weaknesses in the two environments as well as take advantage of the strengths.

And a writer who is unfamiliar with the classic patterns
of informative speaking often writes a mini technical
manual to present on stage -- then forgets that the TOC
should be an integral part of the document. So the classic
speaking pattern of "tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em,
tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em" goes out the
window. How many times have you walked into a conference
session and 20 minutes in you finally figure out that what
is being said isn't at all what you expected and it's
something that you're not interested in hearing. A good
speech introduction should clear that up in the first
five minutes.

Speaking does have the disadvantage that the listener can't go back and review what was just said the way a reader can. Another reason why the "tell em' what you are going to tell em', . . ." formula is so important in speaking.

And I'm not saying that the two communication techniques
don't have a lot in common or that there are not a lot
of parallels, just that there are significant differences
that we frequently overlook. And I'm not sure whether it's
the arrogance of the TW species ("I *know* how to communicate.
I need learn nothing new.") or whether the problem is just
more typical of people who don't do a lot of public speaking
in general. But I go to a lot of conference sessions and I've
seen a lot of tech writers fumble around as if they'd never
taken a speech class in their lives.

Could be a bit of both.

A lot of people don't get some public speaking training until they find themselves up in front of an audience professionally and realize there is a lot about public presentations they don't know.

I guess I was blessed in not only taking the opportunity to do some public speaking training when I was still in high school, but in having the opportunity in the first place.

...just my observations.

John Fleming
Technical Writer and SAS Programmer
Edmonton, Canada

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