Do you have a success tip as a Walk Leader that you’d like to share with others?

South Long Branch Jane's Walk, May 6, 2012. In this photo the walk is heading toward the Mississauga-Toronto border, which is based on where Etobicoke Creek used to run before it was channelized. Walk participants received a colour map, printed on cardstock, showing where the two branches of Etobicoke Creek used to run and where the creek used to flow into Lake Ontario. Photo credit: Peter Foley

Fanny Martin, the 2012 Jane’s Walk Event Manager, has asked 2012 Jane’s Walk leaders three questions, which I have included as headings for this blog post.

“If you have a moment,” she has said, “I’d love to have your input, especially but not exclusively on these points.”

I would like to invite you, as a visitor to this website, to share your own reflections regarding these questions.

You can send us an email or post a comment in the Comments section at the end of this blog post. We can usually get around to approving items for posting within twenty four hours or less.

1. Do you have a success tip as a Walk Leader that you’d like to share with others?

As I begin to work on my own answer to these questions, I’m aware I’ll be working on my responses over several days.

The most important thing is to ensure that the walk leader(s) connect with the audience. That to my mind is the No. 1. Key to Success.

Many things are involved in establishing that connection. Some experience in public speaking is helpful — and it’s always well worth underlining the fact that one can get better at public speaking, if one has the motivation.

Mike James and Jaan Pill, the co-leaders of the May 6, 2012 South Long Branch Jane’s Walk, have experience as public speakers.

That experience manifests itself in a variety of ways:

(a) If we’re speaking to a large group, we make sure we have a microphone and amplifier in place. If your audience can’t hear you, or if you have to shout each time you speak, your connection with the audience might be less than ideal.

(b) Base what you say on accurate and balanced information. It’s easy to tell stories, but if you’re telling stories related to history, it’s useful if the stories are based on archival and historical evidence. Dates and information on the Internet may or may not be accurate. My own inclination is to go with archival evidence and people’s first-hand accounts of life experiences, and to have evidence from more than one source. I like to engage in extensive fact checking.

(c) Maintain eye contact with your listeners. Use the body language and facial expressions of individuals in the audience to gauge how you’re doing as a speaker. Public speaking is an interactive process. Truly, one can look at it as as a conversation.

(d) Choose a number of key things that you want to get across. Choosing what is salient and relevant takes a lot of work. It requires that a person knows a topic well. Often it can take more time and mental effort to extract the kernel of a story, as compared to telling the story from start to finish. If you wish to connect with the audience, make the effort to say what you have to say in a brief amount of time.

By way of illustration: If a speaker has a long grocery list of facts, and is convinced it’s important to cover every detail, is not speaking loudly (either by raising one’s voice or using a microphone) enough to be heard, is speaking too fast to be understood, or is looking to the side while speaking, then it may be likely that the speaker is not connecting with the audience.

I began to develop my own skills as a speaker when I made my first keynote presentation. On that occasion at a conference in New Jersey in 1993, I launched into an overview of an abstract topic that fascinated me but (as I could see) bored my audience. I switched to a story about myself, about a personal experience that changed the direction of my life.

It was clear the second story of more interest to the audience than the topic I had originally chosen to talk about.

That early encounter with a bored audience taught me how to connect with an audience.

I think of public speaking as a skill akin to learning to ride a bike or learning to skate. One gets better with practice.

You can find more tips about public speaking of you click on the ‘Public speaking’ category on this website.

2. What can the Jane’s Walk organizers do to better help you, throughout the year?

The Jane’s Walk organizers such as Fanny Martin can help those of us who are planning walks by keeping up the conversation throughout the year.

I am delighted that Mike James and I became involved with co-leading Jane’s Walks this year. The planning process began long before May 2012. We look forward to being involved with Jane’s Walks next year.

We look forward to continuing the conversation with Jane’s Walks organizers over the coming year.

3. What has the Jane’s Walk experience meant to you?

The most important meaning that I’ve derived from the South Long Branch Jane’s Walk, and from other walks I’ve been associated with, is related to the power of an idea.

Jane Jacobs said, in so many words, that if you want to know how a city works, and how to make it work better, walk around the city and think about what you obesrve.

I know a lot about the area close to where we live. I’ve been accumulating evidence about it for several years.

Archival and documentary evidence that Bert Crandall, Michael Harrison, Robert Lansdale, and others have shared has been very helpful.

Books from the Toronto Public Library that I’ve read have been helpful.

Oral histories that I’ve been conducting with long-time residents have been highly valuable.

I’ve gained much from networking with, and talking with, a wide range of people.

I look forward to learning much more, including from other people, and sharing with others what I’ve learned.

We learned many things on our South Long Branch Jane’s Walk

Going for a walk with eighty people, as we did on May 6, 2012 in South Long Branch, is such a wonderful way for all of us to:

(a) Share what we’ve learned

(b) Walk along the actual lots and streets (and in some cases remains of streets) that we’re talking about and

(c) Generate questions that will lead to further conversations — conversations that are a source of enjoyment for all participants, and that we remember long after the walk has been completed.


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