I took my daughter to the Cheltenham Literature Festival this weekend (hey, I’m not saying its middle class but I heard someone say “stay here Blossom, Mummy’s gone to find Hector”). I love the festival atmosphere – listening to authors talk about their books, learning about new subjects and having the chance to meet great writers face to face (especially inspiring for children). I myself came face to face with a world famous philosopher in the hotel, whose talk on ‘wonder’ I had been to the day before. Here was one of the great thinkers of our time – just me and him in a corridor, my chance to ask a profound question about existentialist rationality or wave theory … so what do I say? “I don’t think the lift is working Professor Tallis”. Doh! Anyway, the reason I mention the festival is because this year they had ‘Flash Poets’ popping up when you least expected. They would just unroll a stand-up banner next to a queue or alongside a path and just start reciting poetry. I love this idea. Not because I’m particularly fond of poetry (I can only recite one poem and that’s a limerick I learned when I was about six*) but because the ‘flash mob’ concept is such a great way to get a message across. It speaks to the point made in the book Made to Stick about the element of surprise in communication. The best way to capture someone’s attention is to break a pattern. When you’re quietly standing in a queue of sitting on a park bench you don’t expect someone to start belting out poetry. It’s unexpected and therefore memorable (and possibly a little irritating). Bring the concept into the workplace and it’s a creative option for communicating a message. If you want to spread a message about a project or initiative, why not do unscheduled flash appearances where crowds are gathered (restaurant, car park?) to give a quick 3-minute presentation and distribute some handouts, then move on. It has to be brief, fast-moving and ideally light hearted, and if it is I bet people remember what you’re saying. In our sanitised and highly managed internal comms environments nowadays, a little bit of flashing might be welcome change.
*There was an old man from Leeds
Who swallowed a packet of seeds
In less than an hour
His face was in flower
And his head was all covered in weeds