Saturday, December 5, 2009
I hereby paradoxically proclaim, from my exalted pulpit, that the Age of the Orator is officially over. De-throned, debunked, dead.
What killed the idolizing of the golden-tongued orator?
First the web, then blogs, and now Twitter.
All you could do at old fashioned websites was stare at them, read a few things, maybe buy something. No more. Now we expect to post a comment, ask a question, contact the author, add our critique or praise, contribute something to the topic, enrich the discussion with our anecdote or expertise.
The old broadcast model of communication, advertising, and propaganda is dying fast. Democratic formats, where all who wish to say something are enabled to do so, are replacing the authoritarian, command-and-control format.
Twitter is a great example of decentralized discussion.
Nobody dominates the conversations. Someone says something provocative or controversial. Others RT (retweet) the statement, while some respond via @ (replies) and a lively debate results. Or people will add their own insights, examples of what happened to them, or requests for clarification.
We want to join in and participate, not absorb and regurgitate. We don't mind listening to you, if you'll also listen to us.
We demand to assert our own opinions and knowledge in discussions, not keep silent and passively consume lectures. From the President of the United States to televangelists, we're sick of it, all that blabbering, that fancy speech-making that bores us to death and leaves us depleted.
"Shut up and listen to me" is the standard mode of hypnotism, brainwashing, and cult indoctrination. It's being phased out and replaced by free conversational modes, where everybody gets to say something and to respond to what others say.
Oratory no longer moves us.
We aren't motivated, educated, or entertained.
We don't get inspired, excited, or pumped up.
We despise it. We'd rather be anywhere but there, in the auditorium or pew, politely smiling, sporadically clapping because the speaker says something we agree with. We hate being talked at, no matter what the topic may be.
Applause ruins speeches. Clapping and hooting are a barbaric form of minimal interactivity. It can be seen as a sort of "positive heckling". Applause often comes between one important statement and a vital follow-up to that statement, which is why the speaker often has to stop in the middle of the second remark, to allow the cheering to occur.
Applause is a butt-kissing interruption that says, "We approve of that statement and want to show you our approval. We clap to show our support for that idea you just expressed. Your other ideas were okay, maybe, but this one was great, exactly what we wanted to hear! It pleased us. We want you to know that this particular statement is very much part of our belief system. We enjoy hearing things we agree with."
But that leaves in question the statements that are not applauded. Hopefully, the speaker's final remark will result in a standing ovation, the seal of an audience's approval for the entire speech.
Speakers sprinkle easy-to-agree-with statements, composed in "soaring rhetoric", into their speeches, with the express purpose of eliciting some gratifying reactions from the crowd. The clapping and cheering acts as a boost to the speakers fragile self-esteem, it affirms his worth and propels him to keep droning on and on and on.
All an orator usually accomplishes is inflating his ego. Secondarily, he hopes to represent or express what the audience believes or wants to hear. He goes on and on and on, about whatever, while the subdued and docile audience soaks up the information like sponges, goes to sleep, or fidgets in their seats, seeking an escape.
Speeches don't solve problems. Speeches rarely enlighten anyone. We dislike one person getting up and acting like they have all the answers, while we are seekers or students or lemmings seeking leaders to follow like dumb lazy sheep.
If you want to reach people, shut up once in a while and let them say something. Let them interrupt you, heckle you, challenge you, enhance your understanding, and chime in with their own viewpoints.
This democratic, non-hierarchical communication platform is being realized in social media, blogs, and Twitter. It's not an opinion. It's an emerging reality that's usurping the old way of conveying information and achieving a consensus.
Think about how your website, sales staff, conferences, and marketing strategy could be improved by paying attention to this major, profound shift toward interactive communications.