Stopping The Invasion of the Public Speaking Body Snatchers

Tony Compton, Managing Director

In the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Donald Sutherland’s San Francisco city health inspector character tries to fight off gelatinous botanical creatures from outer space. The alien creatures replace human beings with exact duplicates while people sleep, but the copies have no human emotion.

In the film:

  • Donald Sutherland’s character eventually loses his fight.
  • Leonard Nimoy’s character is not to be trusted.
  • Veronica Cartwright’s character may have lived to tell her story for another day,
    but I’d very impressed if she stayed awake for the last 37 years.

That leads me to only one conclusion.
The Invasion continues, and I’ve seen it.
But this is no movie.

Real-Life Evidence

I just watched a business video which featured an interview with an executive from a high-profile, well-known global company. When asked to introduce herself, the exec did so with an emotionless face and monotone voice. To complicate matters, she went on to say that she was “happy to be there” but didn’t smile. How could this be?
I understood the language, but her nonverbal communication was speaking louder than her voice. (This short story has been slightly altered to protect the innocent.)

Confused, I applied deep thought and further analysis to this dilemma.

As a producer and attendee of corporate events, trade shows, business conferences, and internal meetings for over 25 years, I’ve watched one too many deliver an emotionless, robotic presentation. I’ve also worked extensively in the broadcast industry, and I’ve seen and heard programming which has featured people who should’ve been telling emotion-filled stories, only to lose their vibrancy when they’re in front of a camera or confronted with a microphone.

The plot thickens.

The central question I keep asking myself is: “How could so many business people – human beings otherwise filled with emotion – take center stage and deliver expressionless performances?” After all, these are people who claim they care deeply about their products, services, and revenue performance, and hold their colleagues to very high standards, but they don’t seem to care about they way they come across on stage, during a webinar, or on a conference call? In a meeting room, or on video or audio? Even worse, there’s a prevailing attitude among bad communicators and their inner-circles that the way they deliver their material is more than professionally acceptable. Is that even possible? How can somebody care deeply about so many facets of corporate performance, but disregard how they and their company representatives look and sound in numerous channels of corporate communication?

It has to be The Invasion of the Public Speaking Body Snatchers.

Inexplicably, too many people transform moments before they have to deliver a performance.

Inform some people that they have to deliver a presentation, and they become almost unrecognizable with fear. Or overconfident with a nonchalant attitude. Place some people in front of a camera and they suddenly become robotic and lifeless. Sit some people in front of a microphone, ask them to converse, and they choke up and are unable to speak. As a producer of numerous forums I’ve often wondered where the spirits of some people go just before a performance, who has taken over their bodies, and why don’t they care that this happens to them and to many around them?

Lastly, why do so many in the audience commend presenters for substandard performances? Have they been compromised by The Invasion? It’s possible that they’re seeking to gain favor with the boss by telling him what he wants to hear, or avoiding a confrontation with an event sponsor-turned-presenter who has paid their way onto the stage. Either way, it’s very suspicious.

The Resistance, and Stopping The Invasion

The good news is that not everybody has been compromised by public speaking body-snatching aliens. More and more material has become available which details the significance of breakthrough business storytelling, and increasing numbers are starting to take notice. People are awake and alert to this trend in business communication. Employees (especially millennials) are no longer falling asleep on this aspect of their careers, and rightfully so. Those who possess the ability to tell engaging stories across numerous channels of interactive communication hold a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.

By definition, those who remain awake and tuned into the importance of delivering outstanding personal performances will not fall prey to The Invasion.

We’re now living in a dynamic, interactive, and social business world. Live video is storming the global marketing scene. Presentations, podcasts, interviews, and videos are now produced all the time, by everybody, everywhere. There’s no more hiding behind computer screens and monitors. The ability of a company’s public-facing team to step into the spotlight and tell great stories is having a measurable impact on branding, awareness, demand generation, and securing net-new closed business.
Tune out this revolutionary wave of business communication at your own risk.

For I now understand why so many presenters induce sleep during their talks, and why so many “yes” people remain emotionless, silent, and accepting throughout the tired process of acquiescing to mediocre performances. It’s all being done on purpose.

Just more evidence of The Invasion.

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