Anyone following the news lately, which is most of us, can see very easily how difficult it is to communicate a clear message in this age of multimedia. No longer is public speaking just about standing behind a podium, saying your piece, and being done. People are zig-zagging from the television to Facebook to the government website to written statements online to blogging platforms to Twitter, and so on.
Speakers now appeal to their public in many different ways. In politics, every single line is excruciatingly examined, tested, and reviewed again. Professional photographers paint a non verbal image. Hashtags and catchy quotes are instantly on replay/repeat on social media. Speakers even take to social media themselves to communicate directly with their audience.
It’s not just limited to political speeches. YouTube, social media marketing, and webinars have also led to the fragmented public speaking. Your marketing team also takes catchy snippets from your recorded talks, creates trendy hashtags and gifs of you speaking to further your brand. Gone are the days where you stood up, gave a speech, and that was the end. Used to be that you had ONE audience in ONE place with ONE unifying message.
Public speaking is now fragmented. And audiences heads are spinning. Never before have we seen public speaking scrutinized at these levels. Political speeches are reviewed, replayed, recycled in ways we never could have imagined years ago. There is so much noise that audiences don’t know what to believe, who to trust, what is fake or real.
There’s no longer a unified group of people to which a modern day speaker can appeal. Every word is chopped into sound bites, tweeted, fragmented, twisted and regurgitated. Trying to pander to audiences with different belief systems is a dangerous game. Take Theresa May who is stuck in the middle between trying to get along with the President of the United States while at the same time trying not to alienate her constituents here in the UK. By not taking a strong stand and trying to placate, her message was confusing and as a result she appeared needy and weak.
As a speaker what can you do? Do you go with the “divert, confuse, tell each different audience what they want to hear” tactic? That might seem to be an easy solution. Capitalise on audience confusion and don’t worry about authenticity because you’ll have a sound bite to fall back on for any situation? And if your audience isn’t listening, say something shocking and drastic to get/keep their attention? For some people the ‘shock and awe’ tactics might work, but it’s not really going to be successful in the long run. Someone will be paying attention, taking notes, looking for inconsistencies. Someone will see that things aren’t adding up across all platforms. And you best believe that they will be calling you on it.
The second option, which here at Ginger we strongly believe in, is to do the extra work to be consistent. Considering all the different audiences and different layers of media they will be exposed to and creating a message that will appeal to as many as you can. Not everyone is going to like your message and not everyone SHOULD. If you stick to your authentic voice then you’ll have one message that carries through all media platforms. This leads to less fragmented public speaking, which is always a win.