You get 60 seconds to speak your message; Go! – Thoughts from Digital Fight Club Night at Digital Dallas

Chris Anderson TED Book CoverBut the biggest obstacle in identifying a throughline is expressed in every speaker’s primal scream: I have far too much to say and not enough time to say it! We hear this one a lot. TED Talks have a maximum time limit of 18 minutes. (Why 18? It’s short enough to hold people’s attention, including on the Internet, and precise enough to be taken seriously. But it’s also long enough to say something that matters.) Yet most speakers are used to talking for 30 to 40 minutes or longer. They find it really hard to imagine giving a proper talk in such a short period of time.
Chris Anderson, TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking


Well, you think 18 minutes is tough?! You ought to try the Fight Club rules at Digital Dallas. Last night, Digital Dallas put on quite a show. I walked away after some great conversations, and after having my thinking fully stimulated.

Digital Dallas Fight Club Categories
The five bouts – winners in Green

But, it was the communication aspects of the entire evening that I want to post about here. Here’s what they did:

5 bouts
2 sides in each bout
1 minute each for each side to make his/her case
30 seconds for each for rebuttal
30 seconds each to respond to a question posed by the panel of judges
and then, the audience voted for the winner

Yep, you read that right – about 5 total minutes for each of the 5 bouts.

The five areas were:

Virtual Reality
Digital Content
Big Data
AR & AI (Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence)

This entire gathering was a master class in modern communication events. There was music, lights, a sense of something happening… But I highlight two areas:

#1 – Digital Tools

The MC/Narrator/Michael Buffer for the evening, Michael Pratt, sat at the table with his SmartPhone open, clicking on his timer. He timed the speakers down to their last second.

Throughout the evening, and during the bouts, many in the audience tweeted (including me), with the tweets put up on a scroll at the front. Very interactive!

And, we all voted on a web page set up for our votes. It worked flawlessly (assuming one of the contestants did not hack into the voting to rig the outcome!) And, throughout the evening, folks with video cameras were roaming through the Grenada Theater recording the entire evening.

#2 – Verbal Communication Expertise

This is what especially grabbed my attention. Each speaker had clearly worked on their allowable one minute to present their content. There were no poor speakers! Animated, clear, concise, doing superior jobs at explaining. A true master class of “get-to-the-point” communication.

It was a brilliant format.

And, by the way, not a PowerPoint slide to be seen. It was the speakers alone on the stage – their voice, their facial expressions, their gestures, their body movements. They were the speakers, with no aids or “crutches” of any kind!

Their rebuttals, and answers to the judges’ questions were fine, but it was that one minute each that was the highlight of the evening.

Digital Dallas Warming Up
Warming up before the bout

Among other parts of my professional life, I teach speech, do presentation skills training, and write speeches for some professionals (in business, and in political circles). Here’s the challenge: for one minute of speaking, you get around 140-160 words. That’s a pretty fast speaking pace. Those words are critical. Each and every one of those words is critical. (For perspective, this entire post is 632 words).

These speakers were terrific at this challenge.

The video is going to be available soon—somewhere. (I assume at the Digital Dallas web site). Watch it. And then, think about how you can do a better job of wasting not a word or a second when you communicate.

And, a hearty well done you to the team at Digital Dallas!

Digital Dallas Winner
And here’s one of the winners!

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