Some Kind of Important

It’s a hard job being a school teacher, right?

The bulk of the challenge is wrangling children into some sort of calm state where they’ll be able to listen to you and absorb at least a tiny percentage of what you’re saying.

Kids, amiright?

Well,  it’s not just children who have a tough time listening. Adults don’t enjoy it either.

I go to a lot of functions and I gotta say – although we’re civilised people and we’re keenly interested in stuff and we want to support good causes and organisations – geez, it’s hard to listen to speeches.

Speech crowd
Speech crowd

In most ‘official function crowds’ I find myself in, adults take less than 10 minutes to start to fidget during an official address. They may try to stare at the speaker with polite smiles stitched onto their faces, but on the inside they’re screaming for the speeching to stop.

I was at an event launch recently with hundreds of others in the room. A minister was duly popped behind a dais to wrestle with written notes and some ad lib that was meant to be warming but was just simply limp. I felt awful for the minister, but couldn’t help joining the dozens of people who began with quiet murmuring to each other and ended up flagrantly ignoring the speech and contributing to increasingly loud conversations. One person ‘shooshed’ my group yet everyone kept on talking (now I’m wondering if that person was a ministerial staffer …)

So what is it with speeches?

They’re a communications relic. And, much like the awful brochure welcome message I wrote about here earlier, I would like to see the back of them.

I understand why speeches exist. They:

  • Are a tradition
  • Easily fill a spot in any event agenda – which means we don’t have to spend time and energy being more creative
  • Fulfil obligations to funding bodies, especially government funding bodies
  • Make some people feel important; after all if the Minister is there to launch your new Thingo, then you must be Some Kind Of Important

I’d like event organisers to come back to why they’re having events. Is an official speech really necessary? Does it do your image more harm than good? Are speeches in fact the worst part of any official event?

I’m not saying we ditch event rites. To many people, an event can’t possibly be over until a speech has been made. We’re as conditioned to them as we are to waiting for traffic lights to go green. But what if we could rework the speech moment? What if:

  • Instead of a Minister or CEO speaking, a customer or staff member or a volunteer had the chance to talk about what they do every day?
  • Guests were taken on short group tours?
  • Screens around the event relayed important information, with images, lists, infographics or via films?
  • Staff and volunteers roamed the event handing out information cards?
  • Officials like the CEO or Minister sat in a lounge area to answer any interested people’s questions (I wonder how many would approach? The super-keen would, and that’s all that matters)
  • We cut straight to the fun stuff, like releasing balloons or showing the new brand, or letting the new car roll off the line?

This post, along with The worst part of any corporate publication Is part of a new Communication Revolution series I’m rolling out.

Please let me know if there’s another communications relic you’d like me to look at.

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