Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I belong to Toastmasters and am working my way through the original manual to get the ten speeches finished in order to get my Competent Communicator award. Last night I gave my ninth speech. Normally, I'd post the speech here but I did a presentation with slides, so it wouldn't make a lot of sense without all the elements.

I learned something interesting in giving the speech. For each speech I've spent a lot of time crafting an informative and interesting mixture of content. I figured this approach would keep the audience's attention while giving them valuable advice they can start to apply. I've found that the reaction is never what I would expect.

Here is an example. Last night I started my speech by saying "You're fired!". The idea was to grab attention because people are worried because there is constant talk about how bad the economy is right now. I then talked about steps that people can take to remove that fear by diversifying their income sources.

At the end, the feedback I got was pretty standard. "Great speech". "Very informative". The one that stood out was that I could have said "You're fired" like Trump does in his Celebrity Apprentice show.

So what I've learned from this is that people really don't care about the content of your speech. You could give them the advice of jumping off a bridge or hiding their money under the mattress. It's all about entertainment. Relatable entertainment. Which means pop culture references, word play, unexpected shifts and anything for a laugh.

I'm not sure why this is. I have a feeling that when you present something that seems academic in nature, you're challenging people to think. After a long day at work most people are tired of thinking. They want to shut down and be entertained. This is why athletes, musicians and entertainers get paid so much money.

I have a feeling this is part of the reason my blog is not popular. I could post random photoshoped images and probably get orders of magnitude more hits than I do currently.

So the question is what to do with this knowledge. I write this blog mainly for myself to help organize my thoughts and capture knowledge gained, so I don't anticipate changing that any time soon. I also write these speeches because I have a message I want to get out. I will have to change my approach in that area though, because people don't care about your message if you don't wrap it right. Maybe I'll write the tenth speech the way I normally would, and then from there forward I'll just play to the crowd as much as possible.

I'm still left a little unsettled by this. I don't want to judge, people work hard and deserve to live their lives the way they want to. I seem to have a personal obsession with growth and progress, and it usually makes me unhappy because I'm always pushing to do more. So if others have found a way to be happy and that's what it takes, then I wish them the best. This life is short with fleeting rewards for hard effort. Finding any kind of happiness and holding onto it as long as possible is sometimes all we really have. I'm not ready to give up my quest and abandon my ways, but at least now I hope I can go forward with a clearer understanding.

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