Friday, July 8, 2016

Should a Speaker Ever Break the Fourth Wall?

Aristotle advised every speaker to use pathos (feeling) to cater to listeners' "sense of identity, their self-interest, and their emotions."

But it's not enough to open with "My fellow Americans," as politicians do.

Sometimes it's smart for a speaker to break the "fourth wall" by letting listeners in on the secret that he or she isn't 100% "on the podium."

Twenty-five years ago, two media studies researchers discovered audience participationa key index of audience interest—increases when a TV show character breaks the fourth wall, acknowledging he's fictional by suddenly interacting with the audience.

"That interactive relationship redefines the normally passive relationship with a given show and makes the viewers a part of the action," the researchers said.

The research proved TV shows that broke the fourth wall not only gripped audiences, but shot up viewers' charts for their "entertainment value" and "content sophistication."

Analogously, speakers who self-efface are much more popular than those who don't, says Chris Anderson, curator of TED.

“Some people come on full of ego and want to boast about their accomplishments or they tell a story that’s just designed to show off,” Anderson says. "That doesn’t work, and audiences push back on that. 

"What works is people who really have something important to say, and that they’ve done the work. They’ve earned the right to say something that matters, and they’ve found a way of saying it authentically and humbly.”

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