Twenty-first century communication has changed how we talk to the world in three essential ways: connectivity, authenticity, and style. I discussed connectivity and authenticity in the last 2 posts; this post is about style.
Radical connectivity has changed the style of communications in ways that are obvious and not so obvious. The implications are important for anyone who wants to be heard in the new era – speakers, authors, business people, educators, governments, people wanting to overthrow governments, people with causes, and so on.
1. Make it quick. This style shift is all too obvious. Thanks to Twitter and Hostess Twinkies, apparently, our attention spans have shrunk, so you’ve got to say it fast. Of course, giving into this style trend slightly increases the odds that you won’t be heard at all, because your voice will be just one more in an ever-increasing cacophony, but those are the risks.
A less-obvious counter-trend is the desire for immersion in something, so if you are writing, say, sci-fi or fantasy fiction, then you get to go long. No one ever complained because a speech ended early, but every fan complains when Game of Thrones is over.
2. Make it ironic. We’re all connected and everything is obvious. Certainly, every pitch is obviously a pitch, so do it with some irony and you’ll have a chance at not appearing hopelessly late to the party.
3. Make it geeky. When you’re not being ironic, then parade your enthusiasms unashamedly. That’s Geek Culture, and it’s good news. It allows you to get down in the details of left-handed yak herding with your fellow aficionados and still be cool. Expertise is celebrated in a fast-paced world, because who has time to become expert?
4. Make it cheeky. When the English want to make fun of someone, especially someone in authority, they call it “taking the piss out of” that hapless victim. It often results in “winding (you) up,” meaning by the time you finally catch on to what is happening, you’re furious. “I was just winding you up” is both clue-in and slight apology. But in any case, winding people up by taking the piss out of them is a strong style element in much of advertising and marketing, and it’s funny – as long as you’re not the target.
5. Make it about saving the world. It’s not enough to sell shoes, or eyeglasses, or clothes anymore – you have to be saving the world at the same time. A good cause has become a fashion accessory, which I suppose is a good thing, on the whole, until it becomes unfashionable.
If you can combine all 5 of these style elements at once, you will be so hopelessly cool that presidents, prime ministers and aging rock stars will line up to be photographed with you.