Bill Gates released a container of mosquitoes as part of his presentation schtick at the exclusive TED conference last week. Apparently, his gimmick intended to teach a privileged TED audience that mosquitoes cause malaria.
However, what happens at TED doesn’t stay at TED. Gates’ stunt earned major media buzz. The worldwide backchannel chatter is that Microsoft unleashes bugs on unsuspecting people.
This gives us two public speaking lessons to think about.
- Blowing Smoke: Outrageous acts and claims get attention.
- The Larger Audience: The folks in front of you may not be your primary audience.
Blowing Smoke. Check your email inbox – especially the junk folder. Flip on a TV or glance at a magazine rack. How many outrageous headlines and claims do you see?
Many of us are bombarded daily with outrageous claims. A pervasive part of our daily landscape, we suck in outrage as if it were oxygen.
Details? Features? Specificity? Facts? Information? Not so much. Those tend to get buried.
Due to overexposure, are many of us becoming just a little immune to this approach? Or at least more weary? A wee bit more skeptical?
Or are we as happy as ever just to know we’re going to be richer, thinner, and better in bed — never mind the nagging details about how all of these benefits are going to come to fruition?
The answer, of course, is apparent. People talked about Gates’ outrageous act — they didn’t chat about the facts and figures he presented to support his claims.
Are you with me, camera guy? Outrageous stunts and outrageous claims get attention. People talk about them. So they spread like malaria.
The Larger Audience. The live audience of rich people at TED wasn’t Gates’ primary audience. Gates got his message out to a much larger worldwide audience.
Similarly, the audience in front of you may not be your real target. How can you effectively combine outrage and social media to make sure people talk about your ideas — so that you can gain a much larger audience?
Remember the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Stephen Colbert was the speaker — and he gave a satirical presentation that did not, um, resonate comfortably with the live audience in front of him. However, Colbert’s performance quickly went viral online. His message reached a much larger audience that seemed to cherish his performance.
By combining outrageous acts with the power of social media channels, your message can go out to a much bigger audience.
You, too, can use social media and public speaking to become richer, thinner, and better in bed.
(If you really want to help someone with malaria become better in bed, consider the Nothing But Nets program)