I have a great story to illustrate the “Be The Messenger, Not The Hero” point when communicating your marketing message.
I’m on holiday on Kephalonia, a beautiful Ionian island off Greece (at the moment exceedingly hot!). It has been a long-held dream to visit the island of Ithaka, a neighbour of Kephalonia and home of Odysseus the great hero of Homer’s poem, ‘The Odyssey’.
I decided to book a place on a coach tour of the island since I wanted to learn more. My friend and I boarded the coach at a very early hour and settled down in air-conditioned comfort. The guide introduced herself and shared with us some interesting facts about the town we were passing. She was very knowledgeable about the island, the history and people and we appreciated her insights. Gradually though as she kept on and on, it became a nuisance. She spoke incessantly.
The danger with being given too much information is that you switch off. I noticed my mind drifting. Then I started to drop off. Our driver was very experienced at the perilous turns of road and the views were magnificent. However I had zoned out. We woke when we stopped at a village for coffee. My friend had a quiet word with the guide. My friend couched it tactfully suggesting that we’d absorb more if she gave us time by pausing. The guide misjudged and announced that some passengers were asking her to go more slowly. She persisted in talking though more slowly (at first!) and complained at one point of “running out of road”!
By the end of our trip my friend and I were both thoroughly disgruntled. My friend described the guide’s behaviour as abusive. Why abusive? The guide was inserting herself between us, her audience and the experience. She wanted to witness her cleverness, her expertise, her knowledge. She wanted to be the ‘Hero’, not ‘The Messenger’ of her story. A few passengers said she must have been a retired teacher. Having been a teacher myself for 11 years, she’d have had a riot on her hands if she’d behaved in front of a class of children the way she did.
Have you attended a presentation like this? It is an appalling waste of time. The PowerPoint slides go past, one after the other with too much text on them. The presenter treats you as an empty vessel they have to pour knowledge into, right up to the brim. Unless you already recognise it’s relevance prior to the presentation, the information will glide past and out of the window and no one is convinced, enlighted, inspired or moved.
The presenter has failed to deliver the message, they have failed their audience and they have wasted everyone’s time.
To be a good presenter is an exercise in humility. You are at the service of your message and your audience. To serve your audience well, you move them from one understanding to another because they absorb and identify with your message. In Greek drama, the messenger came at the end of the play to report the tragedy that had taken place off stage. They became the instrument through which their audience understood the full meaning of what had taken place.
Be the messenger of your story. You will serve your audience well. You then get rewarded with appreciation and respect.