I do a lot of public speaking. When I am presenting to a large audience there isn’t a presentation where I don’t spot a person who has actually fallen asleep. Now you might think I am crazy admitting it here, but I know it has nothing to do with me. In fact, I’ve had people fall asleep and after the talk others come up and tell me it was the best presentation they’ve ever seen. Every experienced public speaker also knows this to be an inevitable reality when they hit the stage – even during the performance of a life time. The weird thing is that anyone speaking always spots the sleeper – we must have some kind of genetic disposition to finding closed eyes, even in a sea of people.
So, what to do about it when someone does fall asleep during your presentation?
Rule Number 1: Remember it has nothing to do with your talk.
We need to remember the the reason people fall asleep when sitting, standing and not lying down is because they are exhausted, not bored. Some things to remember on this point: They have probably had young kids screaming late at night and didn’t get any sleep. They might have had to catch an early flight to get there for the day. They might have been up socialising at the conference to the wee hours of the morning. They probably haven’t had any fresh air all day being stuck in hotel conference rooms. They have a stomach full of heavy food. The venture capitalist has probably sat through 24 other pitches back to back that day. And they probably had some other factor which made them exhausted. Boredom leads to imagination, distraction and people talking among themselves, not sleep. The evidence will most often be the 99% of people loving your talk, while at the same time this person sleeps. I can remember 2 times I fell alseep while listening to two of my favourite public speakers; Steven Wright the comedian who I absolutely love and Will Ferrell during his broadway show on George W Bush – You’re Welcome America. Which both were absolutely hilarious. But both times I happened to have jet lag, and the jet lag won.
Rule Number 2: Don’t obsess over them – ignore it.
No it won’t go away if you ignore it. But your performance will go away if you don’t ignore it. Remember it is not their fault, or yours, it just is. The presentation is for the person nodding their head, looking you in the eye, the person on the edge of their seat. They deserve your full attention and continued focus on the job at hand.
In the end, what we need to focus on is what we can control, and rarely is this issue something in our control. Sure, if an entire room disengages, go back and work on your speaking craft, get better. But the most important thing we can realise when dealing with people and audiences is this: we are not the only force impacting peoples reactions to immediate world around them.
The new rules of media are pretty simple. The only type of messages pretty much anyone is interested in these days are:
Anticipated, personal and relevant messages.
Anything else is just noise, or maybe even SPAM. It’s also easy to conclude that this is only relevant in new media. Not true. These changes in the landscape have modified our worldview to the point that all media must now abide by the rules in bold above.
So next time we talk to our audience, we should ask ourselves if we abiding by the rules of the new world, or damaging our brand by living in the past.
So how do we leverage a human revolution from a commercial perspective? It’s a big question. And even though the web has gone a long way in deconstructing power bases, business and human evolution are still inextricably linked. So I thought I’d post a few things that matter in a digital world so all players (people and commerce) can create value for each other simultaneously.
Rules of engagement
- Authenticity pays. Be real, don’t pretend to be something, or someone your not. Brand respect comes from understanding the rules and respecting the on line world as the real world and vice versa.
- Speak with a human voice. We don’t listen to Corpi-speak. We listen to voices from people. We ten must personify our brands.
- Engage the crowd. They own our brands. You want proof. When they stop feeding our brand (buying) it dies. We must pay the respect the real brand owners deserve. It’s always been this way, but we didn’t know…. because we couldn’t hear their voices. Now they they have a voice, we must act on it. We have to let our people hijack our brands. User Generated Content and Crowd Sourcing is where it’s at.
- Compound effort. Benefits take longer to garner in the new world. It’s not like the old days of a large media campaign with instant results. We are moving from a low human capital, high financial capital environ, to a large human capital, low financial capital world.
- Learn on the job – it can’t be strategized. It’s too unorganized and changeable… the web is humanity in digital form. Then they only way to play is to embrace the chaos and be part of the conversation. It can’t be justified to a board room, but the companies and brands who choose not to play will be wondering what happened a few short years from now.
Most of all, have fun doing it.
It’s easy to believe that owned and earned media (aka social media) is superior to the older paid media. We’ve been trained over the past 15 years of the GUI web to think this way. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows my thoughts on traditional media, in that it is dying, or at the very least changing.
So what is the right media? The media that achieves the objective, within the budget constraints, and lastly fits the risk profile of the media investor.
Sure, it may be cheaper to vlog, blog and tweet ourselves to functional levels of brand awareness – especially in startup land. But it may be a smarter option to invest 1 million dollars advertising on TV if it results in 3 million dollars in revenue. I say this because I think entrepreneurs are being blinded by the zero cost nature of digital media. What we are better off embracing is an objective driven, performance based approach. This is especially true now that the lines between old and new media are blurring.
The best advice I can give is this: ‘don’t discriminate’ – don’t even think of digital as a channel. Instead think of making connections with audiences. Sometimes this may involve traditional media, sometimes exclusively digital, and sometimes only one or the other. Instead, think in terms of ‘Human Movement’. That is, what they do, where they are and how the communicate with them. Essentially we need to integrate our thinking into how ‘they’ (the people we want to have a conversation with) move. The important caveat is that we need need to be nimble enough to develop an understanding of new media channels as they emerge.
I was asked today about how blogs should be built and leveraged from a commercial perspective. It seems to be a regular question I’m asked. The giving element that is required in the blogosphere seems counter intuitive to the way our minds have been trained via the industrial complex. They often struggle with the fact that we just have to give, and the law of natural economics just kicks in. So I came up with this analogy which I think makes sense and explains how it should be approached philosophically.
Blogs are like a football stadium.
The game is played in the middle of the ground.
In blogs the middle of the ground happens to be where our posts are geographically placed.
This is why people come to our blog. To see the action. To learn from and be entertained by the actual game (posts)
But like all good stadiums we have related infrastructure around the edges. Our details, company, tweetstream, contacts.
If they like the game we play (our posts) they return. The crowd gets bigger, and they tell their friends to come.
Like the stadium the revenue comes from all the related elements like the concession stands, the parking and the sponsorship. The stuff that generally lives around the edges… both in stadiums and our blogs.
But we must never forget why they are here. To enjoy the game. They only ever return because the enjoy the game (the blog posts). So what we need to do is build our industry around the game, rather than charging for tickets at the gate. Charging entry just doesn’t work beause there is far too many games they can attend. (more than 200 million in fact)
So when someone asks you about how to make a blog work. Remind them of ‘stadium economics’ and that it’s the quality of the information and entertainment which earns us the right to sell them the occasional hot dog.
There’s quite a few bad words used in business and marketing. Words which quantify, extract and segment. They dehumanise business. I’d like to see them removed from our vernacular. Here’s two examples worth sharing.
Target & Consumer. I prefer Audience and People and here’s why:
A Target is something we aim for, shoot at, maybe even kill. An Audience is something we try to impress. An audience gives us a chance to prove our worth, they invest their time in us and we must respect it by trying to over deliver to their expectations. In the hope that, they throw flowers on the stage, cheer and ask for an encore. But we enter the stage knowing we may get rotten tomatoes thrown at us, if that’s what we deserve. The onus is on us.
A Consumer is someone who buys stuff. Their primary purpose is to devour whatever we provide. They are faceless, nameless and irrelevant. We want as many of them as possible to fulfill our financial needs. A Person however, is someone we know. A person has emotions, ambitions and meaning in their life. They have opinions which we must value, and a life which we need to enhance. A person is someone we hope to relate to on a human level. A consumer is machine like and undervalued.
The best startups and brands, know that they need to perform for their audience. They know that audiences are made up of people.
Seems there are two choices in launching a startup or brand:
1. Buy an audience. [quick but expensive]
2. Earn a following. [slow and cheap]
The problem with the first option is that we don’t get many chances to refine our stuff, and getting it wrong can end it all. The benefit with the second option is that it allows and encourages experimentation. And if we experiment enough, we might just be able dome some of the first option too.