Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A basement:

Holiday Inn, Saddlebrook, New Jersey

The management seminar is being held in the Holiday Inn basement.

I've got a stack of papers in my hand that L___, our presenter gave me.  Almost all of it is catalogs and order forms for other seminars and accompanying books about management training themes, but sliced into different specialties. 

L___ steps to the the front of the room. 

He gives notes, suggestions, tells anecdotes and mentions his wife and kids, walking back and forth.  He occasionally refers to, but mostly ignores, the powerpoint slides with bullet points on the screen. He has clearly digested a lot of popular management books and statistics, and says he will make this practical and something we can all start to use right away, "not philosophy or theory". That pre-digested management wisdom is to be the "content" of the seminar. We take notes.


What I first thought was L___'s unified voice is really an unspecified number of different voices.  Sometimes L___ makes a point in a voice that it seems we are to take as coming from him, but which sounds very much like popular right wing TV commentator Bill O'Reilly.  I wonder if mass audience pundit/talking head figures from radio and TV must be a ubiquitous source of style in this type of performance.  I think about how rare a seemingly novel approach to form must be in this field, as in any other.  Several other familiar mimicked voices are used by L___ in a way that suggests that they are L___'s own voice, a voice of sincerity and authority, in contrast to the various "funny" or "persona" voices he uses as counterpoint.  These other voices are usually marked as funny or satirical by their more exaggerated sounds and body languages.  

There is the ostentatious windbag "bad manager" who thinks he's smart, but is doing something dumb (this one seems lifted from vocal stylings used by radio personality Rush Limbaugh). It has a huffing, self-regarding tone and a stiff body posture. 

There is the voice of "L__'s wife" (just a falsetto, sometimes crying), with flailing hand gestures. 

There is a version of L___ that is a humorously enraged and screaming comic over-reaction to something (a little like comedian Lewis Black).  He almost falls over with loss of control during that one. 

And there is one persona that L___ actually gives a name, "Wilbur".  Wilbur is different.  L___ explicitly tells us who Wilbur is, introduces us to him instead of just slipping him in (or slipping into him.)   L___ both acts out Wilbur, and refers to him in the third person.  Wilbur is the embodiment of the dumb, screw-up employee, the office scapegoat.  The worst nightmare for a manager.  Wilbur has a "goofy" voice, clownish, choked, and a little lispy, and spazzy body language, and recurs as a character throughout the two days of the seminar. More than with the other personae, we are meant to notice when Wilbur reappears-- "Oh no, here comes Wilbur again!"


I've been thinking about forms of presentation.  What is meant to be seen and heard, what is conceived as "content", and what is considered just part of the delivery system, what's meant to be ignored, and what is meant as sugar to help the medicine go down.  There is so much that happens in those wrong parts.

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