By Tim Hayes []

Flam, Roll, Paradiddle, and Ratamacue.

No, it’s not a law firm specializing in personal injury cases.  It’s not a listing of naughty homonyms, either.  It’s a sampling of the 40 basic drum rudiments – the equivalent of a piano student learning fingering and scales, or a clarinet or trumpet player learning which keys and valves to press to reproduce notes on a sheet of music.

For seven years, every day after school, I stood at the kitchen table with my wood-and-rubber Ludwig practice pad and a pair of heavy drumsticks, going through the basic rudiments.  Flam, roll, paradiddle, and ratamacue.  Over and over, until they happened with ease and power and skill.  Until they happened almost without conscious thought.  Until they became natural underpinnings and extensions of my love of playing the drums.

Every acquired skill must be just that – acquired.  Even those with natural talents, whether in sports or the arts or writing or mathematics or building model airplanes, know to become truly accomplished means working to improve on those natural talents.  That’s why every professional sports team has a full staff of coaches.  Every athlete on that team can improve in some way, and the coach is there to provide the guidance, encouragement, discipline, acquired knowledge, and the occasional kick in the pants to ensure that the athlete has the best chance to perform better.

And the process never stops.  Or, at least it shouldn’t stop.

As I work to train business leaders at all levels to become better presenters, sometimes I find myself drifting back to that after-school kitchen table, working on the rudiments. 

– First of all, does my client have a well-developed, crisply worded, focused and powerful message to deliver? 

– Will his or her audience be able to quickly summarize the single essence of the presentation the next day?

– How does the client present himself or herself before a group?

– Posture, eye contact, how is he or she using hand and body movements?

– Is he or she smiling?  Does it look natural or nervous?

– Does he or she warm up, both vocally and physiologically?  Does he or she even know how, or why it’s important?

– What about inflection, enunciation, tone, pace?

These and a hundred other “rudiments” need to be understood, practiced, and put into play, if a person hopes to become a comfortable speaker.  In time, he or she may work up to becoming accomplished.  For many people, simply becoming comfortable represents a critical initial plateau of success and achievement.

These rudiments of public speaking work.  They’re the building blocks.  You can guess and grasp and grope your way through, I suppose.  But when you take the time to truly understand and implement the rudiments, good things follow.  Working on them over and over, until they happen with ease and power and skill.  Until they happen almost without conscious thought.  Until they become natural underpinnings and extensions of a love of speaking in public.

Flam, roll, paradiddle, and ratamacue.  Pick up your sticks.  C’mon, let’s practice.

Copyright 2011 Transverse Park Productions LLC