You could be devilishly handsome, an artistic prodigy or have the singing voice of a young Welsh choir boy, but if you open your mouth and let a flurry of brash, thoughtless sentences pour out, you’re not likely to be thought of favourably. Which is possibly why Kate Moss has kept schtum for such a long time.
Whilst appearance is a big part of how we come across and connect with people, the way we deliver ourselves through speech, the patterns and language choices we make, all play a huge part in how we distinguish ourselves. They can either be the key to attracting, or in some unfortunate cases, repelling people. Which is where my latest Feeding experience comes into play.
In March, Stranger partner Clare and I made our way to Cool Content 2013 at the Eden Project; a conference exploring the scope of digital content. The subjects covered ranged from blogging, to crowd sourcing, to the lesser-spotted Waxwing.
Yes, that’s right. The Waxwing, the small, winged, berry-guzzling visitor from Scandinavia. You see, what had at first seemed like a wild card entry to the day’s line up, in the form of Michael Blencowe, Sussex Wildlife officer, had in fact (in my humble opinion) been the most enjoyable. Whilst Michael, (with a Facebook following of 372, that’s 500 less than Myra Hindley, a fact he deftly pointed out), may not have seemed the likely type to be speaking about the merits of digital content, he did in fact deliver his point with the most affable, approachable and amusing presentation we’ve seen in a long while. Through his vibrant character, perfectly woven stories and timing drummed down to a tee, he made us sit up and take notice of his great work. Now that’s good content delivery.
This got me thinking. Recently there have been a fair few tone of voice projects happening at Stranger Collective, with RCH’s Wave Tap and Young People Cornwall projects to name but a few. It’s part of our job that gets us all really excited, since it makes it startlingly clear how powerful language is. Our THINK services truly hammer home that the choices made in language, whether it’s changing the tense, or played with pace, can completely transform the way copy comes across. Well-crafted words can turn a great idea into one that can excite, ignite and compel. And that’s why we’re all a tad obsessed.
So after a discussion on the way home about why we liked Michael so very much, I’ve tasked myself with discovering what it was about his tone of voice that made him such a joy to encounter. This one’s for you Michael…
He stripped it down– Often people use flowery, over-complicated language as a way of papering over the cracks in their argument, their nerves or perhaps even a lack of belief in what they’re trying to say. With stripped-back language and a conversational tone, Michael put us all at ease and invited us to get involved in what he was saying.
He was observant– The room rang out with laughter at his wry observations. Like most great comedians, by pinpointing parts of daily life that we all experience, he managed to get us all to relate his experiences to our own. Using this technique he called upon our imaginations, which instantly made us consider ourselves a part of his community. We all felt engaged and eager for him to succeed in what he was communicating.
He was laid back- There was nothing formal about Michael’s language. In fact, there’s something about the pared down vernacular that seemed to make him instantly more approachable. By injecting his own character into his speech, through his personal sayings and language idiosyncrasies, it made his content come across as genuine and authentic.
He was passionate- True enthusiasm is not easy to fain. Michael had passion by the truck load. Through an intonation in his pace, he made us all sit up and take notice. He had captured a certain energy, which he framed with perfectly delivered comic timing. It reminded me a little of those favourite teachers at school. The ones that manage to grasp your attention through their obvious love for their subject, and funnily enough, you always seemed to learn a lot more.
In short, the wildlife of Lewes is pretty lucky to have such an awesome outspoken advocate, and if all conferences have a Michael in their midst, then the world would be a much better place.
*Amazing illustration by Mark Greco, Lewes-based artist that Michael has collaborated with on his Lewes Wildlife newsletters. Beautiful stuff.