Shifting the Vantage Point to Avoid The Wah Wah Wah

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The recently released 3D version of the “Peanuts” movie reminds many of us of the unintelligible and bodyless voice of the teacher in the animated Peanuts’ cartoons. Identified by the sound of a trombone and the dialogue box of “wah wah wah wah wah,” the unseen teacher only confused Charlie Brown and friends or put them each to sleep.

In all thought leadership—whether in a written oped, keynote, panel presentation or media appearance—to avoid the “wahwahwah” trap, it works if you vary the point of view and shift the vantage point of your content.

Your audience of readers, listeners, viewers or clickers want you to change up the type of information you present so it is not literally monotonous. It gives you credibility as someone who can connect to an issue or idea from different vantage points.

Put another way, if you consider your content like a visual slideshow of photos from your latest trip, you would not want all the shots to be selfies, nor would you want all the shots to be of crowds in a square or of sweeping landscape views.

Information delivery is the same.

In order to offer a palatable and fully dimensional representation of your idea, your ideas need to be delivered in close-up, medium and overview shots in the same piece.  An artful combination of all three points of view, shifting seamlessly from one to the next –and back– keeps the audience awake and offers surprise, making the content urgent and accessible.

Consider the Close-up. This is the anecdotal information you offer, whether it is your personal experience, or the detailed examples of a single person, company or place exemplifying what you are writing about.The close-up offers a possiblity for a more intimate understanding of the issue. For instance, if you are writing about the refugee crisis in Europe, offering specifics about a family or individual or a description of an intimate scene establishes accessibility.You want to make the audience feel as if he or she is there.

Offer a Medium Shot. These are the facts and statistics, research you offer that is quantifiable. They tell an objective story and can be presented intermittently in any expression of thought leadership. There is a danger of too many facts ping ponging against each other– a fact dump or clumping of stats and percentages– that will make the reader or listener’s eyes glaze. But if you present this research as a fact sandwich? It is more palatable. Offer facts as the meat of the piece with a buffer on each side of close-up anecdote and longshot overview, so the depth and value of the research will pop.

Include Overview or Landscape Shot. So what does it mean? You are offering context and overview, your big idea about your information. You present what it means and why. This is the big picture. This point of view is necessary, but it has to be tempered with specific close-up examples and medium shot facts and research or it is just rhetoric. Be sure that your big idea is presented artfully, that you do not slide into the “wahwahwah.” I find the best expressions of thought leadership—whether it is a speech or a one-minute answer on radio—use the overview judiciously. The risk is that if you speak only in abstract notions, you may be accused of pie in the sky thinking unable to offer concrete plans. Know of any candidates accused of this lately?

There is no formula for the order of inclusion of these three separate elements. You may want to start small with an individual example and build to the overview. You may also want to start with the big idea and work to the anecdote. You may even elect to start with the facts and research and then move to the big picture. ending with individual examples or personal experience. You can also circle back and shift to a vantage point you have already employed more than once.

Think of the greatest political speeches of the last 100 years and of opeds you have enjoyed reading recently, even answers from experts on “Meet The Press.” Each successful expression shifts from the specific to the facts to the big picture. The goal is to be memorable and to have your ideas spread because the way that you delivered the ideas was interesting and varied. Presented together, you give a 3D version of your idea.

There is a reason we never see or understand the teacher Charles Schulz imagined for his characters; the teacher did not vary the point of view and is doomed to be forever ignored.

Post by OpEd Project Journalist Facilitator, Michele Weldon


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