June 15, 2009

Moving Away from the Status Quo

So I was pointed to two YouTube videos recently of Brad Delson, lead guitarist of rock group Linkin Park, giving UCLA's keynote address at its Commencement Ceremony. You might be thinking like I was - really? Brad Delson gave the keynote address at one of the country's top schools? The guitarist of a rock group?

If you watch the funny, heartfelt, witty speech, you will come to find out that he was a summa cum laude graduate from the school in 1999, and was planning on going to law school before following his dream of being in a band.

You'll also come to figure out that he was not the school's top choice to speak at the event (James Franco), or even their second choice (Conan O'Brien), and that he was asked six days prior to the speech to do it.

Delson's speech was FAR from the status quo. He stripped from his robe and cords into a UCLA basketball jersey halfway through it, and played a Britney Spears song on a guitar. He talked about plagiarism, spoke of his late-night meals at one of the "establishments" in Westwood, and made fun of the two people who declined the invitation to speak prior to his call.

While the speech was far from the status quo, you can see that the students LOVED IT! They will never forget who their college graduation speaker was, and likely will remember his words of wisdom for a long time, because it WASN'T the status quo.

I also think that UCLA deserves a great deal of credit for being willing to go outside the box with their choice, and to allow him to give a speech that was not the usual... When they received the text of his speech, which I am sure they did a few days prior to the event, they didn't freak out and cancel him. They embraced that this speech was going to be different, and their students benefited.

As I close, I think this is a perfect example of how doing something that is far from the status quo can benefit the audience. All presentations don't need Powerpoint, and they don't need to follow the exact same script that everyone has seen in the past. Why not encourage presenters to think differently, and allow them the freedom to do something that isn't the status quo?

Your audience will appreciate something different, and your message may stick with them a little longer!


Joe Rominiecki said...

Haven't had a chance to watch the video yet, but from your description I will make a note to do so soon.

I couldn't agree with you more about moving beyond the status quo, esp. in situations when a vast number of other people or competitors have an equal opportunity (like a commencement speech, of which there are literally tens of thousands each spring).

As an editor, I read a lot of articles, proposals, marketing copy, etc., and I am constantly amazed at how much everything sounds the same, even from writers who think their stuff is brilliant.

Case in point: When someone talks about an organization "offering top-notch services" and "adding value," does he/she really think it's original or that his/her target audience hasn't heard this a thousand times before? Doesn't every organization claim to offer top-notch services and add value? Not only does everyone say these things, but these phrases don't even mean anything either!

When I read the same stuff over and over again, it reinforces my belief that, in many cases, standing out from the crowd just for the sake of standing out from the crowd can work wonders to get you ahead.

It also reveals a simple truth about life: if you try harder than other people, you'll do better (duh). This has stood the test of time b/c most people are lazy.

Delson could have been lazy and delivered a speech about "chasing your dreams" and "climbing mountains" and "never giving up," just like every other commencement speaker since the dawn of academia, and he would have been forgotten two minutes later. But you're right: simply b/c he chose to be different, those UCLA students will remember him for a long time.

Bruce Hammond said...

@Joe - Thanks a lot for your great comment. I think that you make some great points. Appreciate you reading, and you should definitely take the time to watch the videos. I enjoyed them!