Monday, January 3, 2011

Put Your Hands Together

I remember a real life incident which I witnessed involving the legendary ad man David Ogilvy, the founder of the hot shot creative agency Ogilvy Associates who had become a legend in his own lifetime.

Ogilvy was the chief guest at the Asian Advertising Conference held in Delhi in 1984. The entire advertising fraternity in India had gathered to listen to the living God of advertising and hoping to catch some gems coming out of his mouth. But unfortunately they were sorely disappointed with David’s performance. He had come totally unprepared for such an international gathering, grossly underestimated the intelligence of the Indian advertising professionals and was very condescending while responding to the questions from the audience. With the result, at the end of his talk, there was only a feeble response – half hearted clapping by a few in the audience. To save the embarrassing situation Allyque Padamsee (God of Indian advertising),who was the master of ceremonies came to the mike and requested the audience to give a standing ovation to the illustrious speaker who was after all a special guest who had taken the trouble to travel all the way from USA.

As a contrast to this was the response to an Asian speaker from the Hong Kong office of Grant Kenyon & Eckhardt, an ad agency where I was working then. This gentleman knew that he was following David Ogilvy in the programme and had taken extra effort to make a brilliant presentation which literally swept the audience off its feet. He got a spontaneous standing ovation – going on for several minutes that the Indian God had to come once again to the mike to say ‘enough – the speaker has got the message!’

Standing ovation is the ultimate form of appreciation given to an outstanding performer on stage given spontaneously by an appreciative audience. Every performer hopes he will get this genuine appreciation at the end of every performance.

There are also other forms of expressing one`s appreciation. ‘Applause’ – putting hands together is the most common form of appreciation for somebody who has given a good performance or done a good deed. But how and when it is expressed determines the sincerity of the act.

Claps or applause can be classified into three categories. Most common is the routine applause by the audience after every act in a play or at the end of every song by a singer. It is just perfunctory which could mean ‘chalta hai… carry on`. In the case of a talk it will be half hearted clapping by a few in the audience. This kind of appreciation can be witnessed in many Rotary meetings when the speaker, though an expert on the subject, is not able to connect with the audience.

The second type is when the audience claps fiercely often accompanied by sound bytes like
`wah! Wah!`or `encore` or ‘once more’. In this case the clapping is often sustained and lasts a little longer. The performer knows that the audience is thoroughly enjoying the fare being dished out! This type of response can be seen at musical evenings or other shows where an individual is displaying his/her special talent. I have seen Mrs Revathy Shanker, a multitalented singer /actor, eliciting such response from her audience ,every time she gives a performance. Closer home, I have seen my good friend and a fellow Rotarian V.Sriram getting spontaneous appreciation from his audience!

The third type is reserved for a bad speaker or a bad performance! The audience starts clapping midway though a talk or a performance without any rhyme or reason. Sometimes the clapping becomes rhythmic like `clap`..`clap..`clapclapclap`. In variably followed by catcalls and sound bytes like ‘Boo…’ or `no more` or `go home`. It is most humiliating to the performer. If he / she does not respond by stopping his act midway then the booing is quickly followed by missiles made of paper or other harmless materials aimed at the performer. This kind of appreciation can be witnessed even today at college day functions.

If it is an open air show and happens to be a political meeting , the missiles could be tomatoes, eggs and even small stones.

In some seminars or conferences, when the speaker repeatedly ignores the Presiding officer`s request to wind up his speech because of time constraints, the organizers take the extreme step of switching off the mike. Sometimes,even that does not deter the adamant speaker from going on and on, like the proverbial mother-in-law!

Moral of the story is never to take your audience for granted, however great you are! Go well prepared to deliver a good performance if you want genuine appreciation! And don’t forget to stick to your time limits.

1 comment: