Think Chunky

My first brush with the media was a bit of a shock. I was being interviewed about the fact that I was the world’s first Glaswegian to English interpreter (long story). So, after a surreal trip to a Bingo Hall and a strange experience in a pub, I did an interview with a Glaswegian journalist. Our interview must have lasted 30-45 minutes. Not that you would know that from the article. In print, the entire thing was distilled down to some basic details and a couple of soundbites.

Nowadays, every blog post, every news article and even many photos go through the same process. No matter how long they took to prepare, when they are promoted on twitter, they are reduced to 140 characters, or even less. In the case of Margaret Thatcher, even an entire life got sliced into neat little tweetable chunks.

I know fine well that there are many people for whom this is nothing short of scandalous. It seems like some sort of travesty to take complex arguments and turn them into tweets. It seems even worse to suggest that your research or your product might be summed up the same way. After all, you have spent years on it. It’s worth more than a tweet, surely.

Be that as it may, your audience, in writing and speaking, now live in a tweeting world. While you might desperately want them to give you their full attention for 20 minutes, their minds will wander from time to time. While you might want everyone to get everything first time, the chances of that happening are less than the chances of someone swapping out Big Ben’s bells for a mobile ringtone.

With this in mind, last week’s post on your t-shirt message comes in very handy. If you have done your prep right, you already have at least one tweetable message for your talk. It might not be a bad idea to actually tell people what this sentence is. It also might not be a bad idea to tell what it is again and again.

This isn’t exactly a new idea. For years, excellent speakers have been saying things like “if you take one thing away from this talk then …” or “if you only remember one thing I have said … .” They were on to something. Since people’s minds are going to wander and since they will not go away remembering everything you said, it makes sense to flag up your key points and maybe even do it repeatedly.

This becomes especially important given the rise of people actually tweeting while you are talking. I have actually had the role of doing exactly this at two multilingual debates. It is very likely that one day someone will be sitting tweeting through your talk. What do you want them to say?


About Jonathan Downie

I am a conference interpreter, public speaking coach, preacher and researcher.
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