Those were the days. The influencers spoke and lesser mortals listened. That divide has since been flattened by technology. The speaker has had to concede to her audience in terms of focus and outcomes. It is no longer about what the orator delivered, what matters is how much the target group took home.
Let’s take the content. Cut and pasted material, sourced from the internet is all very well but a speaker is expected to be more than a mere conveyor medium. The audience needs advanced content gleaned from research, reading, observations, brain storming, and life experiences. Listeners need help integrating this new information with what they already know. This is where a speaker’s vision, insight and perspective come in. Let she who speaks place what she says in context.
And gone are the times of undivided attention. Interactivity today needs to go way beyond the token exchanges during talks and presentations between the speaker and a couple of enthusiastic participants. What the speaker needs to mount is a full-fledged experience for those he hopes to influence. His success depends on what his target group is able to go home and apply. Let him do his homework therefore. Where exactly are his listeners stuck in their professional and personal lives? What are the speed breakers? What is stopping them from moving forward at a clip? The talk can no longer stop at whether he used the stage well or modulated his voice or memorized his content to a fault. Did he impact the lives of people who sacrificed some hours of their being alive to come listen to him?
Public speaking also can no longer stop at the concluding ‘thank you’. The speech has to go beyond the room it was delivered in. How does this happen? You give the crowd something to talk about at home with family and friends. The narrative is sure to carry the lessons too. Make it easy for them to remember the main arguments. A multiple mantra would help. It also makes more sense these days to have them register with their various social-media handles rather than just the email ids and phone numbers which are available on the various Whatsapp groups.
A successful talk happens when there is a potent feedback loop with the audience, when energy moves around in right earnest. Lectures are outmoded, the thing to do is involve. And please, content is not the king. It is what the audience has learnt, taken away and applied. How else do we make the world a better place?!