As advocates, we all have important messages that we are dying to present. Give us just 5 minutes of your time and we’ll have you singing the praises of’ our teen’ issues.’  Often times, we are only given 5 mintues’ (or even less than that) to present ourselves.’  When we have only 1-5 minutes to present all of our points on an issue and to convince another person of action, it is absolutely essential to have a clear, concise position to communicate.’  Here are some ways you can go about creating such a message, whether it be verbal or written.

  1. Brainstorm all the possible points of an issue or things that you can think about when articulating it.
  2. Organize the thoughts into categories. It is important to do this so that the message is conjointed.
  3. Rank your categories in the order of importance.’  For such a brief talk or letter, you should probably stick with only three categories or main ideas.
  4. Go through each of the three categories and make sure that have researched and have accurate support for each of your assertions.’ ‘ Up to date and relevant’ statistics and information’ are always great helps and go a long way in showing that you really took time on your message and that you know what you are talking about.
  5. Keep each assertion and its support clear, brief, and directly to the point.’  Cut out any flowery or ambiguous language.
  6. Add transitions to make sure your message flows smoothly.
  7. Make sure that your position ends with what you hope to influence the person you are talking to to do.’  For example, if you talk about how library services numbers are up, how much your budget cuts are, and how they are impacting your library system, you need to be able to tell your lawmaker at the end of your presentation what you would like them to do about the situation- whether it be more funding from the stimulous bill or decreasing budget cuts to libraries.’  You need to be prepared to offer suggestions for solutions.
  8. Write it all down word for word in a hand-out with your contact information if you are presenting verbally.’  Sometimes people need time to flesh out your points, think about them, and get back to you with questions.
  9. Refine, refine, refine and’ practice, practice, practice.’  Refine your written communication by keeping it updated with any new information and allowing others to proofread. For verbal messages, practice by yourself; practice telling a friend.’  Presenting your messages in written or verbal form to a friend can help you determine any flaws, incoherencies, or confusion in your message.
  10. Try to be respectful and use appropriate formality, speech, language, (eye contact, voice and breath control in verbal communications) when delivering your messages.

Presenting our messages is an essential part of advocacy. Why not make it the best message that you could possibly give/send in 5 minutes?

About Krista McKenzie

I am a Children's Specialist at the Ruth Enlow Library in Garrett County, Maryland. I work with kids from the ages of 0 to 18 and am also a reference librarian. In addition, I am member of the YALSA Legislative Committee, and the Children's Services Division of the Maryland Library Association.

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