COMPASS blog post about 2013 New England retreat training

Posted by Lauren Hertel on Thursday, September 20 2012


This weekend, Erica Goldman and I traveled to a town outside of Boston to deliver a communications workshop for the 2012 New England Switzer Fellows. The fellows are in the midst of their graduate educations, and have diverse backgrounds – they are law students, representatives of NGOs, interdisciplinary and field scientists – all within the realm of environmental sustainability.

Like many of our workshops, our central message to the participants focused on the importance of understanding your audience when communicating your work. That includes formatting your work into clear and succinct messages, but it’s also about understanding the culture in which your audience exists, so as to make your work relevant to them and what they most care about… their “so what?” 

But one of the things that surfaced early and remained a theme of this workshop was the importance of active listening and peer feedback. It’s always important to remember that communication is much more than just articulating a clear message to someone else, there’s also this critical element of listening to, and internalizing how others react to your message, and having the ability to engage your audience in a dialogue. These Switzer Fellows saw first hand that it’s important to be conversational, not professorial, because it’s through dialogue that you begin to see the way others perceive your message, and it’s through that understanding that you can refine your approach and make your message most effective.

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