Talks vs. posts

My last post reminded me of a conversation with Christian Dalager last week, which took place when he was listening to this talk:

What is it that IT Conversations does for us? I read Clay Shirky’s blog, and I can read faster than he can talk, so you’d think I’d get more information transfer from reading. So why do I get so much out of listening to the talk?

There’s a couple of obvious reasons, one being that voice communicates many things other than the words themselves, most notably emphasis, and some more intangible cues about the person talking. Another being that the person’s getting paid what’s probably a significant sum of money to talk, so is likely to prepare well and do a good job.

But there’s a more profound thing going on as well.

When you’re writing for the web, you can take your message and its packaging as a given, and let your audience self-select around that: Those who care about what your topic, who know enough of the background to understand what you’re talking about, and who understand your references will get it, and those who don’t will just not show up.

When you’re giving a talk to an audience that is physically present, you have to take the audience as a given, and design the talk from that, making an effort to get everybody on board. You have to start from the beginning. You have to tell us why it’s important. You have to explain more of the background. You have to focus on the big picture and avoid the nerdy details.

That’s why, as a listener, there’s a greater chance that you’ll find inspiration on IT Conversations than in a blog post.


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