How to make everything you say a treasure to your audience

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT Delete” was released in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

My first time attending the TED conference was a bit of a disaster.

In fact, it’s a miracle that I ever went back. I was not prepared for the experience, and I didn’t really know anybody who was attending. That first day, I wound up just following the schedule and doing my best to not make a scene of myself. My biggest mistake? I thought that everyone there was attending for the amazing presentations. It turns out that everyone there is actually attending to meet the other attendees.

On that first night of the first day, I wondered if I would even have someone to talk with at the opening cocktail reception. I was intimidated and keeping to myself all day. During the final speaker session of the day, it was announced that there would be some kind of special evening session featuring a debate on the future of media that was going to be broadcast live on the BBC (or some other news station). I was excited to attend this session.

The TED you don’t see.

It’s a special kind of conference. Many people believe it’s about the quality of the speakers and their subject matter. Many people are often surprised when I tell them that the speakers make up about only five percent of the overall TED experience. Here’s why (and it’s a major lesson that every conference organizer can learn from): TED curates the audience with as much effort and time as they curate the content on the stage. The spirit of networking and meeting others, in a place that is meant to foster real communications, is staggering.

On that first evening, as I walked to the session on the future of media, I decided to let my guard down. I decided to open myself up to meeting as many people as possible. I decided to do the opposite of everything I had done over the years after attending (and speaking) at countless conferences (my typical move was to allow the organizers to introduce me to others or I will stick around the backstage area and work on my laptop). I decided to break the golden rule that was taught to me by parents from a very young age (you know the one about never talking to strangers). I decided to let the fate of the TED deities have their way with me.

That’s when Julian Treasure arrived.

On that walk on that brisk Monterey, California evening, I happened to meet Julian Treasure. We had a lot in common (besides our glorious hair styles… or lack thereof). We discussed music, creativity, media, and more. His business (and his area of interest) was in how sound and audio can shape our environment. His specific focus was on how audio can help shape the power of a business… the power of brand. As we talked and discussed the media landscape, I remember thinking two things to myself:

  1. I hope everyone I meet at this TED conference — and whichever ones they’ll have me back to — will have people as nice, open, and accepting as this other bald dude.
  2. I hope I’m able to stay in contact with people like Julian forever and ever.

An idea worth spreading.

Ideas worth spreading, is the TED tagline. After spending some time with Julian at that evening session, and leaning on him (mostly with me being his wingman) at that evening’s reception (where he kindly took pity on me by allowing me to tag-along), it became abundantly clear that he was not just someone who should be attending TED, but he, indeed, had many ideas about sound and audio that were worth sharing. Not just on the TED stage, but everywhere.

Over the years, Julian’s TED talks about the power of audio became must-watch presentations. If you are a frequent viewer of the TED Talks, you will see that Julian has given five TED presentations that have made it to their crazy-popular website.

By day, Julian is the chair of The Sound Agency, a company that advises businesses on how to use sound. He is also the author of the book, Sound Business, and keeps a blog by the same name. Julian’s latest talk on the TED site is called, “How to speak so that people want to listen.”

Not just another talk about how to give a great talk.

You see it’s not just about the words you say and the body language of communication. It turns out that the audience plays a very active role as well. Audiences can be finicky and it’s not always easy or predictable to know how they are going to receive a message.

Well, we’re all lucky that someone like Julian Treasure has taken the time to both think about this and dissect it into something that we can all understand. It turns out that being able to talk is a science on to itself, but making that content sound beautiful — making that content be something that people will actually want to not just listen to, but connect with — is the stuff of genius.

Watch this and you will probably never speak the same way ever again (and that’s a pretty magical thing)…

About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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