When it comes to speeches, speechmaking and speechwriting these days, leaders are strategically confused. They’re giving far too many of the wrong kinds of speeches, and far too few of the right ones.
You might think that’s something that the head of the Professional Speechwriters Association shouldn’t say in public. But the truth is, professional speechwriters are the only people who can restore sanity to the leadership communication business. Because at the moment they’re the only people who know what sanity is.
Let me describe the gnarly problem and the simple solution.
The problem is, the proper role of the old-fashioned speech has changed as much during the last decade as it did during the last several centuries, and leaders’ communication instincts have not caught up.
Before the advent of the Gutenberg Press, speeches were an essentially efficient method of communication. Though speeches could be used to stir an audience’s emotions, the main reason leaders made speeches was: There’s no time to tell you one by one. Everybody gather round!
Then came newspapers. Then radio. Then TV. Then the Internet. Gradually in-person speeches became only one of several ways—and hardly the most efficient way—for a leader to reach and motivate a following.
And just as humanity was getting its dull mind around that evolution in leadership communication media, a full-scale revolution took place, on YouTube, on blogs, on Twitter, on a hundred other social media channels.
Now there are so many leadership communication methods that it’s awfully hard to justify flying people from all over the world to one place at one time and listen to one person. I mean, a leader really has to have an important message that only he or she can deliver to this crucial audience at this precise moment on a subject so sensitive that only real-time eye contact will do....
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