Tag Archives: social speech

State of the Union screen capture, with a sharing icon overlay

The State of the Union is social

There’s a point I’ve been hammering for years now (and I do mean years): the rise of social networks and easily-shared media should mean a profound change in the way speakers and speechwriters approach our craft: at once both broader in scope and more conversational in approach.

But there’s still surprisingly little uptake. Maybe speakers put their Twitter handle on an opening slide, or post their deck to Slideshare, but that’s often about it.

Maybe that’s you. And maybe the thought of getting more social with your speaking (or speechwriting) has intrigued you before, but you weren’t really sure where to begin.

If so, then have a look at how the Obama White House handled the State of the Union speech last week.

Big audience, broad approach

Granted, they had an audience far larger than anything you or I are likely to tackle (this week, anyway!). But the techniques they used to engage the audience — including, crucially, the audience that wasn’t tuned in to the speech itself — can apply to the more day-to-day speeches we’re accustomed to handling.

Writing on Medium, Obama’s Chief Digital Officer, Jason Goldman, pointed to a wide range of ways the White House planned to extend the SOTU beyond the walls of Congress and the reach of TV. The goal: “meeting people where they are.”

But “where they are” varies a lot, he added. “Even people following on two screens don’t just flip back and forth between a TV and a smartphone. We jump from different social media platforms.”

All the platforms. (Maybe not Peach.)

The White House drew on their already-formidable array of online presences with “video excerpts released in real-time on Facebook and Twitter” and media ranging “from live GIFs on Tumblr to 6-second videos on Vine and photos on Instagram.” The speech even got its own trailer video, starring the President.

True wonks could dive into Obama’s past SOTU speeches, supplemented through the Genius web annotation service; visitors could add their own annotations, with the prospect of perhaps having theirs highlighted by the White House. And a partnership with Amazon Video made those speeches available for viewing through the company’s app, if the White House YouTube channel didn’t suit.

Once the speech was underway, the official SOTU web page became a hub, hosting shareable video clips and graphics elaborating on each of the four major themes of the speech. Especially worth noting: each section has a e-mail list subscription form — neatly pre-identifying a relevant interest area of the folks signing up.

Screen capture from White House SOTU page

After the speech, the White House kept the ball rolling. They quickly rolled out an enhanced version of the speech on YouTube, with crisp, nicely-designed graphics illustrating and underlining the President’s points. A day later came a day-long Twitter chat with administration officials and the First Lady, anchored on the hashtag #BigBlockOfCheeseDay. (That comes from a fictional White House consultation event on The West Wing — an indication that Obama’s web team knows at least part of its audience very, very well.)

And with a cancer research initiative as the speech’s most prominent announcement, the page links to a “share your story” feature with a form where visitors can tell their story to Vice President Joe Biden.

Did all that work pay off? Obama’s team were probably doing far deeper measurement than likes and shares — but at least by those superficial metrics, there was plenty of engagement: 32,000 likes for one Instagram photo, 1,300 likes and ten times that many views for the YouTube trailer. 921,000 views, 27,000 likes and 15,000 shares of the full SOTU video on Facebook. You’d want to go a lot deeper than that to measure success, of course, but given that they’ve done a similar full-court social media press during past SOTU addresses, we can probably assume they have… and were happy with what they saw.

Toward a more social speech

For speechwriters, speakers and communications shops who feel jazzed about this and want to try something similar, I hope you do. Here are some ways to put the same kind of approach to work:

  • First, a note of caution for us civilians: what the White House does can’t serve as a template. You’ll kill yourself — and your communications shop — trying to reproduce the swarm of tactics the White House deployed. (Handy hint for smaller organizations: any comms shop that can ask“Would this work better if we did it on the deck of an aircraft carrier?” just may have more resources than you do.) Think of this instead as an inspiration board: a collage of ideas to choose from to engage a broader audience with your next speech. And focus your efforts where you’re most likely to meet your audience.
  • The White House made it visual, from charts and graphs to the big block of cheese on Labour Secretary Tom Perez’ head. And that one Instagram of Obama apparently reaching to shake your hand on the floor of Congress… for a political junkie, that’s the good stuff, even if it was from the 2010 SOTU. Look for opportunities to express your ideas in compelling images, and to use visuals to make a human connection with your audience.
  • Connecting to the White House’s social channels made you feel like an insider, giving you a peek behind the scenes and a look at how they created past speeches. You can use social channels the same way: to give your audience not just more information, but a look behind the curtain.
  • They never forgot their core message; their narrative thread runs unbroken through all their tweets, Instagrams and Vines. Similarly, don’t go chasing cat memes if it pulls you away from the central story of your speech.
  • They built their networks over time. Granted, that can go a lot more quickly when you’re the President; but a lot of work goes into building and broadening their following on every platform they use. If you’ve been building that platform as well, great; if not, well, remember what they say about the best time to plant a tree.

One thing you can do that’s a lot harder for the White House is real conversation (which, apart from #BigBlockOfCheeseDay and post-SOTU interviews with three prominent YouTubers, they didn’t really attempt).

Whether that’s soliciting anecdotes from your LinkedIn network, previewing speech themes in a blog post and elaborating in comments, inviting and using image submissions via Facebook or Twitter for your slides, addressing the venerable Twitter backchannel during a presentation, or taking part in ongoing group discussions on your network of choice, there are plenty of opportunities to turn your speech from a one-way monologue into a richer, broader and more enduring exchange.

(Oh—and of course, Slideshare.)

Speeches and accountability: when a human has to say the absurd

Back in December, NRA spokesperson Wayne LaPierre finally broke the gun lobby’s silence after the Newtown massacre. And David Murray made this crucial point on his blog at Vital Speeches of the Day:

NRA chief reveals another valuable social purpose of speeches: They force leaders to say their position with a straight face. And we get to see what they look like when they say it. And that’s worth a hell of a lot.

That’s a critical point to remember about the power of public speaking. A news release, Facebook update or tweet can say the most absurd things in the world, and the text will look as straightforward and po-faced as if it was an announcement that toast is made out of bread.

But no matter how much time a communications team spends editing and fine-tuning a speech, a human being ultimately has to say these things in real time. (Such as “This is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won’t be taking questions today.”) At that point, we associate those things with a person and a face… and the speaker knows that’s exactly what we’re doing.

And that doesn’t just apply while we’re listening. In the era of online video, there’s a good chance that same human being will be held accountable at some point in the future if what they say turns out to be inaccurate, misleading or – in the cold light of day – absolutely awful.

There are speakers out there who are so delusional or unethical that this makes no difference to their delivery. But I’ve seen a number of speeches, news conferences and interviews where it quickly became obvious that the speaker had no confidence in what they were saying. Instead of just spinning, they were spinning out of control.

Thanks to YouTube and low- or no-cost video editing software, one incident like that can happen over and over again. With Autotune. And a backing track.

With any luck, that may provide a little added incentive for the otherwise-ethical when the temptation arises to defend the indefensible.

Filed under: Social Speech Tagged: news conference, nra, wayne lapierre

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 12: Mitchell Beer

Mitchell Beer has been a leader in conference communcations for more than a quarter of a century. His firm, The Conference Publishers, reports and repackages conference content – keeping it useful and relevant long after the closing gavel.

How does that change in the social media era? In this episode, Mitchell tells me how conference reporting is evolving to take advantage of everything from YouTube to Twitter. And along the way, we gain some insights into how speakers and speechwriters can help their messages find a prominent place in those reports… and in the ideas participants take home with them.

You, in the back. Stop looking at me and start tweeting.

Jeff Hurt reports on a study that suggests tweeting during a class isn’t distracting – it actually increases engagement:

Education Professor Christine Greenhow, Michigan State University, conducted a study on Twitter as a new form of literacy. Her results showed that adults who tweet during a class and as part of the instruction:

  • are more engaged with the course content
  • are more engaged with the instructor
  • are more engaged with other students
  • and have higher grades than the other students.

via Now Proven! Using Twitter At Conferences Increases Attendee Engagement.

So the next time you look up from your speaking notes into a sea of heads bent over laptops, tablets and mobile devices, don’t despair – as long as they’re tweeting and not, say, checking their email, your audience may be more engaged with you than ever.

Filed under: Social Speech, Speaking Tagged: backchannel, twitter

For everyone who wants Obama to be more animated…

Why Obama Now on YouTube.

Now, this represents a lot of work — not just the raw animation and graphics work, but the tremendous visual imagination driving them. But it’s a superb example of how you can reach far more people with your speech than the audience alone.

Creating a digital artifact — whether it’s an image and text adapted from your key point, a brief clip from your speech with annotations, an infographic, an enhanced slide deck or any of a thousand other possibilities — frees your message to be shared beyond the room.

And if you have one of the world’s leading TV animators in your corner, why, that doesn’t hurt at all.

Live-tweeting for the first time… or the fiftieth? Check this list out

5. Research speakers’ Twitter usernames beforehand. Keep them on a piece of paper or notepad for easy reference.

6. Confirm the event hashtag. Find out what the official hashtag for the event is, and make sure you use that watch out for typos. If there’s isn’t one, make a nice short one up check it’s not in use first.

7. Set up an automatically-updating search for your hashtag in your Twitter client. Since you are most likely on a mobile, an app like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Seeismic is really useful as they allow for you to save columns for individual searches.

8. Check whether your client allows you to automatically add a hashtag to tweets. It’ll save you some time and aches in your fingers.  I use the Twitter app on my iPhone, which does this when you tweet from the search screen.

via How to live-tweet from an event | eModeration

There’s some great advice here that you could easily turn into a live-tweeter’s checklist. If you’re having a staff member or volunteer live-tweet your next event, you could do a lot worse than point them to this post.

Filed under: Social Speech Tagged: how-to, live-tweeting, twitter

WaPo’s fascinating speech commentary feature

Say What: Paul Ryan on America’s tough issues – The Washington Post

Check this out. The Washington Post took the prepared notes for GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s convention speech, and set up a page where you can comment on an individual paragraph, watch that segment of video, and call in the fact-checkers.

What’s missing? It would be much, much better if you could see not just the occasional comment from an approved source, but the whole discussion. (Just how to manage that and make it useful is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, of course.) That would make this a truly conversational tool, and not just a way to weigh in.

Filed under: Social Speech Tagged: annotation, gop, paul ryan, washington post

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 11: Maddie Grant

Maddie Grant of DC-based SocialFish has done a lot of thinking about connecting online audiences with speeches, panels and presentations. More to the point, she’s done a lot of doing, including convening one of the most ambitious online conference approaches I’ve seen: NTC Online, the digital version of the Nonprofit Technology Conference held every year by NTEN.

In our conversation, she offers some great advice for event organizers, speakers and anyone who wants to use digital tools to help online and offline audiences learn. And after you’ve heard our conversation, check out these links: