Have Composure, Keep Calm and Carry On

Sooner or later, we all must enter a room filled with our adversaries and it is no picnic. I must do exactly that on the evening that this post will publish. The event is quasi- social business and the attendees will be members of an organization in which I hold the highest leadership post. These colleagues belong to a separate, smaller subgroup of the primary organization and the subgroup has a separate leadership team. The subgroup depends on the primary organization for financial assistance and they are an entitled and self-aggrandizing lot.  My goal has been to limit the hand-outs they receive and oh, boy, are they resentful. So into the lion’s den I go!

I must be friendly and supportive of establishing a cooperative relationship between the two groups, yet let it be known that the primary group does not exist to be in service to the subgroup. I will need a big dose of composure and lucky for me, composure is a skill that can be practiced and mastered. Officers in the Marines are taught a communication style called SMEAC: Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Command, which goes a long way in encouraging the development of composure and control when vital information must be communicated to others. Those who perfect the SMEAC communication format learn to use precise, carefully chosen words to clearly express their message. SMEAC is now taught at the Harvard Business School.

On our own, it is possible to learn a precise and concise speaking style through observation and rehearsal. Get started by identifying those whom you consider to be highly effective communicators. You are listening for well-chosen words that carry impact. Next, select the two or three points that you must make your audience understand and then refine the language you plan to use. Boil down, clarify and simplify your message. Practice your speech out loud and as well, pay attention to your tone of voice and speed of delivery.

SMEAC works best when we have the luxury of preparation time, when we are scheduled to deliver a presentation. If you must make your points from a meeting table rather than from a podium, the agenda will allow you to choose and rehearse the points that you’d like to get across.

How we speak is a combination of presentation style, word choice, tone, speed and cadence. Maintaining composure is essential when we must speak formally to an audience, particularly when the audience is unfamiliar or potentially hostile. SMEAC is an excellent communication technique that is especially suited for crisis communications or other high-pressure, high-stakes public speaking engagements.

Thanks for reading,



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