The performing arts are those forms where an artist leverages her own body, voice, and presence for an act to entertain an audience. They are a physical manifestation of the internal human creative impulse. But of late, in the club meetings of the stalwarts of performing arts like dance and music, there’s a new entrant who brings her own chair and insists on presiding. Say hello to ‘talking’.
The original agenda of talking was to exchange information or establish a connect. It so happens that there have emerged more efficient ways of doing this nowadays, such as pocket news, social media, WhatsApp messages or reviews on commercial sites, to name a few. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous within a very short span, which means people can be contacted all the time. However, in this somewhat changed world order, talking, or at least its previous avatar, is losing its salience. People who can be contacted all the time are not available all the time.
Thus, texting comes to the rescue through its asynchronous nature, and talking is relegated to a ‘on special occasions’ status. Train travel, parties or wrong-number calls are becoming the sanctuaries of the erstwhile natural habitats of talking.
Talking is a fighter. It’s perceptive, evolving and back with a bang. It has recognised that it is competing with very interesting ways to communicate so it doesn’t only need to be informative but also compelling. There are three discernible elements in its comeback strategy – platform, entertainment and exclusivity. It is a dead ringer of the key elements in the performing arts. Platforms like Ted, Toastmasters and fireside chats are becoming hotspots of talking in front of an audience, much as Opera, Broadway or even street plays were.
Don’t get me wrong, talking has always existed and will continue to be so till civilisation survives. This paradigm shift only lends a new meaning and scale to talking and takes it beyond conversation to performance as these platforms contain pretty much the same content one would’ve shared in a group of thinking peers. In order to sustain a platform of this nature, entertainment value is a must-have.
Ingenuity, creativity and practice are essential ingredients of an engaging act, and talking is no exception. Consider stand-up comics – in our everyday lives, they were our fun friends who we naturally gravitated towards in a party. Now they’re practising their pauses and timing to perfection, anticipating audience responses to their wisecracks.
With platform and entertainment in scope, can exclusivity be far behind? It’s not all about world stages but even on a really small scale like a one-on-one, one must transcend barriers to entry so that it is coveted to talk.
A Tinder match, for instance, must add enough value in his coffee chat if he hopes for a second date. Like a dancer who continues to learn new pirouettes or other skills, a conversationalist must ceaselessly learn current vocabulary and gestures to keep audiences engaged.
Now that we’ve discovered this new angle of talking, it is worth investing in. At an individual level, it simply makes sense to meet new people, to cultivate interactions and to rebound from becoming aggressive social media introverts.
Every setting is a potential platform, from presentations at the workplace to speed-dating set-ups in life or podcasts on the alternate Internet reality. It’s time for another renaissance.