Many people today dismiss social media as a fad. They say that it doesn’t have the same impact as real, face-to-face communication.
I understand why they might say this, but I respectfully disagree.
Social media is a new form of communication. Just as the printing press, the telephone, and television changed the world, so too has online communication. Using pictures, video, text messages and emojis is simply a new way we can share and connect.
As I have learned to use social media, it has influenced how I write and deliver my speeches. Here are some of the key ideas social media has taught me about being a better public speaker:
Speak in Vignettes
You might have read studies that due to social media, we now all have shorter attention spans. However, this is not quite accurate. In fact, what social media has given us is a higher threshold for variety.
Today we find it easier to switch between ideas faster than ever before. For this reason, we won’t tolerate long-winded written posts or extended-length videos; rather than keep listening, we will find something else to stimulate us.
When speaking to a group, I have learned to take advantage of this by speaking in ‘vignettes’.
These are small, action-packed stories that push the message forward. They can be a few sentences, and only a minute or two long. Using a series of vignettes aligns with the variety-seeking habits of the audience and helps them to stay tuned to your overall message.
Use Visual Imagery
More than ever before, we love taking in ideas visually. Pictures and videos are proven to be much more engaging than words.
When speaking, you can use visual language to help your audience paint mental pictures. Talk about an angry red-faced man, a five-year-old girl in a blue dress, a big yellow school bus.
Just by using visual language, your audience will picture these images (just like you did now reading this).
Don’t go overboard with descriptive language, but give them enough to set the context. If you don’t use visual language, the audience will start to drift and make their own versions of your story. So it is best to quickly paint the picture and keep them engaged through directed imagination.
Find ways to Include your Audience
Social media isn’t just about posting stuff. It is a constant two-way interaction.
Each person views social media from a solo perspective on a screen. In the same way, every person in your audience views your speech through their personal perspective.
We all know people who just post and don’t respond to comments or like other people’s posts. They are only using social media for their own benefit, and everyone can feel it.
Similarly, if you just talk at your audience, they will start to drift. But if you engage them, ask them for comments and include their examples in your talk, you will find an incredible difference in your audience.
Have Clear, Repeated Themes
This lesson came from my friend and social media mentor Markus Gerszi, co-founder of the Barbell Shrugged podcast. He taught me that your social media posts should be so consistent that they become predictable.
Now the word ‘predictable’ may not be one that is associated with being positive, but in a world where there is constant variety, we also crave consistency. This is because it helps us predict what is coming next.
By using the same words, same gestures or same jokes at different times in the speech, the audience begins to predict what will happen next. You can also carry this same pattern through multiple speeches, as the audience gets to know you as a speaker, this will help to build your brand.
When the can audience almost predict what will come next, they become more engaged in your messages.
Be Quick to Adapt
In every social media platform, change is the only constant. Those who get stuck on one way of sharing and connecting lose momentum over time. The apps you use on your phone are constantly updated, new features are added, others are taken away. In speaking this is also true.
Your audience and environment will change constantly. You are still the speaker, but you must adapt to the audience. If you use just one style of speaking, one level of vocal tone, one method of delivery, you will start to lose the attention of your audience.
I think Tony Robbins is a good example of someone who has moved with the times. In the 1980s, his speaking style and image was more wholesome and corporate. Today he is more edgy and authentic. He has adapted to his audience and found new ways to stay current.
I am not suggesting you have to totally reinvent, but make sure you are researching and adding new material to your speeches and upgrading speaking style.
These five ideas have helped me to stay current and have more influence and impact during my speeches. As I learn these new communication platforms, it has been a great challenge for me to try to include the lessons into my speeches and speaking repertoire.
I’d love to know your thoughts on social media and speaking! Please post your comments below so I can learn from you…
– Daniel Midson-Short