Gather Around the Social Media Campfire


The other day I read an interesting article about the World Championship of Public Speaking. The winner, a young man named Darren Tay competed against 98 regional winners from around the world. This event has always been sponsored by Toastmasters and it seems that in spite of our electronic age, public speaking is having a major resurgence. Toastmasters now has roughly double the chapters they had 20 years ago. The popularity of TED talks and other public speaking forums have also blossomed.

From the beginning of mankind, humans have huddled around the campfires listening to elders provide wisdom or to share stories. Oral histories of cultures were passed down and the young learned lessons needed for survival. As we became civilized we gathered together to plan and to seek entertainment but it was always that all important human voice or voices that pulled us in. There is something primal about sitting attentively and listening to a good story or an important lesson. That is part of the allure of TED. Spoken stories stay with us far longer than a series of spoken facts. Unfortunately, public speaking doesn’t come easily, especially these days. Rhetoric used to be taught in schools but that is no more. Toastmasters help people overcome their fear of public speaking and help them polish their skills so that they can make corporate presentations, teach or just entertain.

The twentieth century brought us mass communications but the microphone has always been closely guarded. That has all changed with the internet and social media. Today, the right message delivered well can fly around the world in literally seconds. That speaker might be anywhere in the world with internet access and using WebEx or another service and with an upload to YouTube the message is available to all. The speaker can go from obscurity to celebrity in minutes. YouTube is a tremendous resource for education and entertainment but there is much wisdom to be gained, as well. A few hundred years ago one person’s message never got past those gathered at the campfire. In more recent times there have been larger venues but you either attended in person or  read about it. Today, the internet can take you there, “in person”, sometimes to witness history.

Chris Anderson, in his book TED Talks, says “the campfires of old have spawned a new kind of fire. A fire that spreads from mind to mind, screen to screen: the ignition of ideas whose time has come”. Social Media can be used for entertain and for business but we must not forget that there is much wisdom and experience out there. All we have to do is seek it out and gather around the social media campfire.

5 thoughts on “Gather Around the Social Media Campfire

  1. I really enjoyed this post. The tools and methods may change, but we are human and we have always needed to communicate and connect with others. It’s a simple concept that is timeless. Makes me wonder….will we ever grow tired of the new fancy tools and go back to old fashioned letter writing and *gasp* talking to one another? 🙂

    • If we do go back to the old ways we may even look up and see the sky instead of down to see our smartphones! Thanks.

      Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Rogers network.

  2. Great observation and title. I agree with your messages, particularly the notion that social media gives us more opportunities to speak in virtual venues and share stories, as is the case with Ted Talks. It’s important to make use of such opportunities to counter balance some of the negative of social media that compels people not to think about what and how they are saying something. To succeed, I think its important to obtain the building blocks of good speaking from practice with our family, friends, at schools, in organizations like Toastmaster, at home or at work.Those environments gives us constructive feedback and encouragement for storytelling, much more than YouTube. It reminds of my younger brother’s approach with this young boys (now ages 12 and 14) when he encourages and coaches them in their narration about an adventure or activity that they have recently enjoyed. And he does let get them away with a simple answer as”fine”, when they are asked how was your trip. Without creating the building blocks of storytelling, speaking on platforms like YouTube may not be as effective. The campfire starts with the real one and builds to the virtual one.

  3. Love the analogy! If anything, what with social media being what it is, you’d think they’d continue to teach kids public speaking rhetoric. Whether your behind a screen or behind a podium you still need to know how to speak so you are understood, heard, and influential. Awesome post!

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