“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” ~ Pablo Picasso.
I love this quote by Picasso and every time I read it, it reminds that before I do something completely different and go out on a limb I need a good understanding of the first principals of public speaking, audience engagement and indeed my own topic.
Assuming you have the rules and first principals down pat, then as a speaker or trainer, one of the best ways you can create a strong and memorable message and generate new learning, is by disrupting your audience. This simply means that you approach your topic or message from an alternative, contrarian or disruptive point of view. This disruptive approach will make people sit up and take notice and will stimulate debate and interest within the audience.
Disruption can be created by a number of ways when speaking.
- You can be the devil’s advocate. You put forward an opposing point of view and argue for a complete change of thinking. Even if you don’t agree, by putting forward this opposite view and the rationale as to why the audience should change, you will stimulate great debate and deeper thinking on the topic. The end result may be that everyone still agrees on the original point of view, but they will now have greater conviction and depth of knowledge as to why they support this current view.
- You can come at the idea from a different angle and look at the issue from a different point of view. This means stepping into the shoes of another group or another person, who has a different view and alternate perspective to the normal view held by your audience. I remember reading about a Doctors experience when he became very ill and entered the health care system for the first time as a patient. He found the experience stressful, unpleasant and realised that the Doctors and nurses just treated him like a number. They would not answer all his questions, he was not allowed to see his pathology results and he soon realised that the Medical profession needed to change the way it treated patients. Most successful conflict resolutions occur when the parties understand both sides of the coin. They understand where their competitor or opponent is coming from and they get a greater understanding.
- You can mention the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. That taboo subject, that perpetual issue that we are too afraid to mention. A classic example of this is the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson. The Emperor paraded before his subjects in his brand new clothes and everyone was admiring them until the young boy spoke up and told the truth that no one was prepared to say – “but he is not wearing any clothes”. What is it that needs to be said to your audience, but no one else is prepared to say it or suggest it?
Just a word of warning. When you use the disruptive approach to create change or new ways of thinking, you may receive some flack and negative feedback and you may need to be thick skinned. It does take courage to be disruptive, but if it helps you to move an audience forward, solve a problem or get everyone on the same page, then it is valuable tool that you can use in your speaking.