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Having a degree in communication, I anticipated that the NLC institute weekend on communication would be “more of the same.” What I did not anticipate was a powerful and informative experience in communication that cannot be found in a classroom.
By Reverend Lindsay James, 2016 NLC-Madison Fellow“BE RELENTLESS IN DEFINING YOURSELF!” Scot Ross’s advice lingered in the air and even made me shift in my seat. Scot shared with us how he prepares for and does interviews with only what fits on the back of an envelope. He also taught us to explain the “why” of our motivation, use third party validations, and to stay on message.After being oriented to this new skill set, we watched it out in a visit by former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who did an on-camera interview in front of us about the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. It was incredible to see a veteran communicator ably navigate a difficult topic while 19 fellows and several board members looked on.After a morning of watching and learning—it was our turn!I stood on my imaginary stump and delivered my very first stump speech. Afterwards, Kitty Kurth, president of the internationally known strategic communications firm Kurth Lampe, provided feedback on my content, my body language, and my tone. After returning to my seat, my neighbor leaned over and whispered, “It’s not every day you get coaching from the president of the firm that worked with Obama on his ‘red state, blue state’ 2004 DNC convention keynote address.”For the remainder of the weekend, we examined effective speeches and learned about messaging, narratives, and the story of “you, us and now.” I also got another chance to practice my stump speech with even more training on body language, tone, and speech content.As a pastor, I am regularly speaking in front of people, sometimes it’s a gathering of thirty and sometimes it’s several thousand. In my Master’s degree program, I spent countless hours learning about homiletics, rhetoric, preaching, and religious discourse. Yet, this training was different. It offered a very practical edge to staying on message, effectively and efficiently, to paint pictures with words, and speak to the heart of the greatest challenges that face our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world.But the training didn’t end there, we also learned how to work with the media from Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times, and Lin Larsen from UW-Extension walked us through how and what you should and should not communicate during a crisis.I knew it was a privilege to be nominated and selected for NLC, but I am beginning to understand how truly unique and irreplaceable this experience really is!
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