Friday, October 30, 2009

Keep it short--REALLY short

Let's face it, no one ever liked a long acceptance speech from an award winner--and now that audience attention spans are getting shorter and more cluttered with information, prize ceremonies are following suit. First, the Webby Awards for websites and blogs asked winners to limit themselves to no more than five word acceptance speeches. Now, the Mass High Tech awards asked winners to accept with what amounts to a Twitter speech--no more than 140 characters. The price for exceeding that limit: $1 per character, with the proceeds to go to a charity, which of course prompted some speakers to wax even more eloquent.

This tactic works well for a variety of reasons. It pokes fun at a part of the ceremony that audiences dread, making it part inside joke, part game--and it challenges the speakers to give crisper, tighter remarks. How might you use this as a speaker or organizer?
  • Copy this idea for your next award ceremony. Ask winners for a headline, a 10-word acceptance for your 10th anniversary, a tweet-length remark, five words that capture why they got into the profession or the question they still wish they could answer. (Do specify a word limit, though, and announce it to the audience.)
  • Use it for a panel discussion. Why put the audience through a panel that keeps answering questions with, "As Bill just said...." or "If I can just add to that...."? Tell the panelists they need to confine answers to five words and make a game out of the Q&A portion.
  • Use it to introduce speakers. Ask moderators or introducers (at a ceremony, panel or conference) to intro the speakers with five keywords everyone should know about them...or ask speakers to submit five word or 140-character bios.
  • Make the audience play. Ask for questions that are five words, 10 words or 140 characters long. It's a great way to engage audience members already on Twitter, which will count characters for them.

Share your ideas for keeping speaking roles short in the comments!

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