Sunday, May 21, 2006

PDF Conference: A Thought on the Politics of/in Communciations

This week, I attended the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) conference at the CUNY graduate center in midtown.

Last year, the shining light was Doc Searls. For those who are unfamiliar with celebrity technorati, Doc is passionate enough to make ideas contagious, even to the those immune to any sort of new interest. Doc is brilliant, quicksilver thinker, avoids jargon, and communicates effectively with multimedia. Add the actual content of the talks -- insights on connections between interpretation and technology -- and there are few I'd rather be in a room with than Doc.

The Continuing War Between the States: The Reds Hands Down Over Blue

PDF's conference focuses on the ways in which campaigns and individuals work online to promote a political agenda. The politics can be local, national, or international -- progressive or conservative.

At this year's PDF conference, the small number of conservatives who attended was highly notable. But the progressives? Not so much. Eliot Spitzer lit up the room. Everyone else who was concise, focused, compelling, and articulate worked for Republican campaigns. Elizabeth Edwards was well-spoken, appealing, very smart, and genuine, but she didn't have same edge as Spitzer and the aforesaid Red State representatives.

Especially on panels, the conservatives took the room by storm. It's this edge -- a combination of focus, engagement, and brains -- that makes a speaker thrilling rather than simply worth hearing.

Beyond Politics: How to Engage A Listener

Effective public speaking is too large a topic to address completely in one post. However, the rules of thumb follow the same theory as effective classroom teaching -- or what is called effective "Thought Leadership" (a term that still resonates with Orwellian overtones for me, despite eight years in corporate America).

--Articulate a clear point of view -- or points of view -- and be guided by insight rather than information per se.

--Generate passion about the topic for yourself, and it will spread to your audience.

--Listen. Listen to what is being said as well as what you say and the dynamic created by the conversation. Focus on connecting. Don't dismiss anything easily.

Natural stage presence helps, but it's not enough. Charisma can also be constructed by following these steps.

Why Do So Many Find This So Difficult?

I have my own thoughts on this, but I'm interested in feedback here. Any ideas?


Dem in Florida said...

Interesting you make these comments - especially since most of the people at PDF were on the left rather than right. I will say that when I listen to the podcasts, the poeple I found most focused were primarily people who were engaged in business. The most diverse (and entertaining) interview was with Jason Calacanis and he seemed to be one of the more outspoken people there.

I wonder if the reason why is:

1. Business requires an articulate point of view as well - since you are driven by the (ongoing) metric of money, it is easy to tune your actions/response based on the profit you generate. Could it be that business-focused people are more in-tune with the politics of messaging?

2. Politics is a place for discourse on the left, a place for goal achievement on the right. On the left, the points are discussed and debated - but a coherent message is a challenge with so many points of view? Whereas on the right, the platform is agreed to, the belief structure is adhered to - is it that in order to rise, you must follow the literagy, and not debate it?

Granted - these are opinions, not conclusions - not sure how to proceed from here.

Doc said...

Wow, thanks!

I kept such a low profile at the PDF (working on overdue projects for Linux Journal, mostly), that I'm surprised anybody noticed I was there.

In any case, much appreciated.