Introducing the Threshold Concepts for Learning to be an Effective Speaker

Last spring I heard Dr. Elizabeth Wardle, the director of the Howe Center on Writing at Miami University speak on how anyone can learn to write. Through some additional conversations we learned that her re-framing of writing—as in getting rid of the freshman writing requirement—was driven by a theory called Threshold Concepts. The best way to describe them is the “liminal space” you need to move through to assemble knowledge, data, skills and understanding to really learn something. Think of it like a doorway to the other side—where learning awaits you.

For more than a decade, we’ve fielded calls from you asking us to help improve your speaking, as well as the speaking of your executives, your associates, your leaders in training, your teams. We have assembled a huge toolkit of effective activities and exercises we use to help you build better skills. We know how to make you uncomfortable in listening to your own voice, recording and watching your own videos to help you determine that really want to change something. We coach in little steps, knowing that big change all at once is very hard.

But until now, we haven’t really understood the thresholds you needed to go through to get to learn the skills for effective speaking—not just do them. We studied, sorted, tested and narrowed down to six. We will continue to be open if there are others. For now, we will consider them the Threshold Concepts for learning to be an effective speaker.

We participated in several deep dive mentoring sessions with Dr. Wardle, spent hours debating, chewing and living them out, and finally feel confident in bringing them forward to you now.

Over the course of the next few months, we will reveal each of the six concepts… one at a time. Dr. Wardle warned us not to make them into a marketing campaign, that they can be overwhelming, confusing and a lot to digest at once. She’s not wrong. Which is why we will be slowly dripping each one with lots of story, commentary and reference points to support why we believe they are in that “liminal space.”

Net net: Once you embrace all six, we are here to argue that if you practice the rituals, habits and patterns associated with them, we can nearly guarantee you will be a better speaker.

Assuredly, they have changed the way we evaluate, plan, coach and reflect on how we’ve helped others learn to speak. Acacia Duncan shares more on the Threshold Concepts below in a short video.

Join us for this journey, and we look forward to your feedback and reflection.

~ Ruth Milligan