Dream Away

A spring view of a hiking trail at shore of Lake Josephine, with Mount Gould and Allen Mountain rising at front and left, in Many Glacier region of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.

M.R. O’Connor’s remarkable book Wayfinding; The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World is about our capacity for exploration, memory and storytelling. O’Connor references the most ancient storytellers-- Australian Aborigines. She states that for over 65,000 years, Aboriginal people have practiced The Dreaming, songs about their origins and ancestors, as well as how to navigate vast reaches of the Australian continent.

What allows the Aboriginal people to survive, says O’Connor are the visual images included in their stories. Europeans name rivers and mountains after humans. Native peoples give names to natural formations like lake at the bottom of two hills that look like buttocks, etc. When stories are told, the listener learns important routes without even traveling there. Today we use GPS devices, but batteries fail, and satellites can miss critical topographic detail. Thankfully, the old arts are still taught, and wayfinders’ accuracy is consistently unerring.

When you speak, leverage the skills of ancient peoples. Take your audience on a journey, giving them signposts along the way so their memory will be engaged, and they will track with you. Be sure to use vivid descriptions, so audiences can visualize each step and landmark. This technique will always keep you on the trail. And like the Aboriginal people, audiences will remember your talk long after you deliver it.

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