Surprise, Surprise – it’s the Olympics

How did director Danny Boyle ensure the spectacular Olympic opening ceremony touched a chord with so many people? And what can this teach us about the art of communication?

In many senses it was about confounding expectations rather than doing the obvious. If the clichéd view of such ceremonies is “two hours of folk-dancing in traditional costumes” Mr Boyle instead gave us “The Queen and James Bond” jumping out of a helicopter, and a comedy spot with Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean as a bored musician with only one note to play. These were the two elements that caught particular public imagination around the globe, as measured by Twitter comments and newspaper coverage, precisely because they were not what people had expected. I only wish more people would try to learn the lesson in the more mundane world most of us inhabit, instead of just dishing out what journalists, or potential clients and customers expect nearly every time.

..spokespeople of course try to be ‘on-message’ but this often means far too bland
When pitching, people have dull, predictable decks of PowerPoint slides re-iterating the same background information about their company and their product, even if most of the audience has heard this stuff twenty times before. Why not some images that will engage right brain as well as left? In interviews, spokespeople of course try to be ‘on-message’ but this often means far too bland. Phrases like “we welcome this new announcement” or “our customers tell us..” have been heard by reporters so often before that they usually go in one ear and out of the other. If only more people, along with those key messages, would try just a little harder to surprise and delight reporters and others with unexpected nuggets and titbits—even if this does not involve a helicopter and a parachute.

Fingers crossed for more surprises in the closing ceremony!

One comment on “Surprise, Surprise – it’s the Olympics

  1. Annabella on

    I completely agree with you here. When I think of the number of hours wasted- by both speakers and for listeners- by ineffective communication, it makes me wonder whether perhaps we’re better off with less methods of communication! The millions of thoughtless emails, PowerPoints etc that are churned out on a daily basis… Having said that, I’ve come across a great website which is for when you want to give a presentation but can’t be there in person to do so. It’s called you upload slides and record yourself presenting them. It can easily replace the standard boring email as you have to actually think about what you’re talking about. I highly recommend it!

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