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“American Idol” versus “The Voice”

My kids have already put “The Voice” on DVR pre-record mode. They are hooked and I may be getting there too.  American Idol never did a thing for me.  So what is going on?

Despite the incredibly tacky design and fight-ring theme, the blind auditions, star studded feedback (they vote with their hands, not their feet!) and team building competition makes for compelling intrigue. I love the blind audition element because it demonstrates how affected we all are by how people look.  We are thinking, “Wow, this is one crazy looking woman!” or “This guy looks like a 12 year old white kid from the Midwest but he sure sounds like a mature black R&B star!” But, since the celebrity judges can’t see the singers, they have to listen with their ears and hearts. And who doesn’t love the look of surprise, delight, and amazement when the stars slam their buzzer, swivel their (tacky!) chairs around and get to see the singer they just voted for! It’s so satisfying to watch their curiosity get piqued. It’s awesome. And fair.

In his book BLINK , Malcolm Gladwell describes the process that orchestras throughout the world faced in the mid 20th century, as auditioners began to fight the bias of conductors for white male players.  Screens were being used to avoid potential nepotism. Since “naturally” some instruments are “male” and should be played only by a man, judges were stunned when faced with a petite woman “blowing the house” out of her “male” trombone instrument. There was a lot of pushback.  Nonetheless since orchestras began using screens, “the number of women in the top US orchestras has increased five-fold.”  We listen with our eyes, whether we want to admit it or not.

For speakers this underscores the importance of recognizing how critical our physical movement and presence is to our audience. For singers on The Voice, it means (at least in the first round) freedom.



Networking is Rule-Bound

 Despite the stack of books at my bedside, I hit a; “I have nothing to read” moment last week. In a surprising turn of practicality, I decided to explore the library in my own home. I landed on blink, by Malcolm Gladwell.  What a pleasure to revisit. I expect to mine his fascinating research in future blogs (if you are married, read the relationship research on page 29/30 for a most excellent laugh) but for now, I want to connect his insights about the seemingly spontaneous workings of improvisational theater to the everyday networking events you and I attend.

In our networking workshops, Barbara and I talk a lot about how rule bound “networking” is.  And how, once you understand the rules, it is so much easier to prepare for events, set realistic goals, enter and exit conversations, exchange business cards, create meaningful and actionable connections, and develop a system for follow-up. Like a physical sport or game, there are rules; and when you know them, use them, and reference them, networking becomes easier, more fun and way more effective.  You can’t just show up anymore with your business cards and hope for good results. We are all way too busy for that.

 It turns out that improv theater (spontaneous, unscripted and unexpected) is actually driven by strict rules that allow the actors to go live.  There is no script. There is no storyline prepared, but, the actors understand two things. They must agree with everything presented by another actor and they must agree to move the action forward. They can’t stop the action, nor can they say “no.”  Everyone abides by the rules. The troupe Gladwell interviews likens themselves to a basketball team. They train. They rehearse. They practice. They prepare for a fast paced, unexpected, intricate and high speed show. They never know what is coming, but they are prepared to make split-second, spontaneous decisions. Gladwell says, (in this example) “Spontaneity isn’t random…how good people’s decisions are under the fast-moving, high stress conditions of rapid cognition (blink!) is a function of training, rules and rehearsal.” 

 So, networking shares a lot with improv theater. We never know who we will meet, what conversation will ensue, who might attach themselves to us, or what the outcome will be, but when we understand our role, agree to the rules of the game and play our part, we get much better results. It is not random or chance, but to the unenlightened, it sure can look that way.

If you would like a copy of our top ten networking tips, please email us.

Charlotte Dietz