Shut up and listen!

“Pay Attention!” Two words guaranteed to send a shudder down the spine of anyone who’s ever sat in a classroom.

This universal rallying call sets the rules of engagement between teacher and pupil but, more importantly, it provides a valuable lesson for life. And, like many of the things we learned at school, it has been largely forgotten.

If you’ll just give me a moment to dust off my soap box, I’ll continue. So, last month I was lucky enough to be invited to an industry event where the keynote speaker was the highly respected NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Basketball in the US is widely celebrated as the sport that perhaps more than any other has embraced digital media to enhance the fan experience – at the game, at home and on the move. And Adam is a brilliant speaker who had taken an hour out of a hectic schedule to share his thoughts with us.

As we settled down to listen, I noticed a flashing box on the left hand of the stage – that looks pretty cool I thought, and seemingly so did everyone else. Within minutes the “Twitter Cube” (for that is what it was) started to light up with live tweets from an assortment of PR companies, agents and other industry faces; an unofficial race to tweet Adam’s latest words of wisdom appeared to break out and attention seemed to be focused as much on the Twitter Cube as it was on Adam.

Given we were listening to a case study in digital media excellence, it’s more than reasonable to use digital media to share some highlights. But it worried me that instead of listening to Adam we were rushing to tell other people we were listening to Adam. And by doing that we weren’t really listening to Adam.

For me, it was yet another example of how we’re so busy trying to enhance our experience that we miss out on the experience itself. The classic one is live music – for just £35 you can spend the night making unlistenable camera phone videos whilst missing your favourite band actually perform! Or sightseeing. A few years ago I saw a woman walk up to Prague Castle, take a few pictures, record a video and walk away. Prague Castle – Done.

There’s nothing wrong with using technology to enhance the experience – just don’t let it replace the experience altogether. After all, it’s our experiences that make us the people we are. And it’s our experiences that equip us to be good consultants. So whilst we rightly embrace technology in our working lives (if you haven’t seen TouchCast yet you should, it’s great), we should remember that the most powerful assets we have are positioned on the left and the right of our head.

There’s a great quote about two former Prime Ministers, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. To paraphrase, it was said that if you had dinner with Gladstone you left believing he was the most intelligent person in the country; but if you had dinner with Disraeli, you left believing that you were the most intelligent person in the country. As communicators we have to be like Disraeli.

Steve Bradley

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search