With the commencement of the coronial inquest, it is almost two years since the Queensland and Australian community were shocked by the terrible tragedy which unfolded at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.
One the of the things that struck me (and I still struggle trying to fathom it), is how the media immediately swing into action to try to provide as much information as possible to an audience whose appetite for such information is voracious, to say the least. Speculation becomes rife in the push to provide ‘regular updates’ to an insatiable public. One of the unfortunate drawbacks of speculation is, it is just that, speculation. Guessing – trying to hypothesise – and quite often guessing wrong. This speculation goes rogue and the viral nature of social media takes over. The electronic grapevine is rife with inaccuracy and rumour. A fertile ground for conjecture and often unfounded or misled judgement speeds the potential distorted growth of contempt and bias.
But it’s our culture. Our id. We crave information, crave knowledge. Our own curiosity forces us down this track and the track is one where we can all too often find ourselves and others constantly being derailed.
Information in our technological age is our lifeblood. High quality, reliable, accurate information can enable us to make the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons. So in this always on, 24/7 media cycle of incessant information, how do we cut the wheat from the chaff?
Through the art of speaking. Through Oracy.
Oracy is much more than just speaking fluently. It is confidence in front of people (be they large groups or small). It is eloquently articulating points of view without resorting to vulgar language or insults. It is being able to take part in workplace communication so as to ensure that everyone’s voice is appropriately heard and that all points of view are considered in decision-making processes. Whilst skilful orators have a finesse and flair with their vocal symphonies, quite often it is more than just natural talent that has enabled them to hold their audiences so well. Just like any other skill, it is practice through the experience of debating societies, discussion groups and engaging in dialogues with teachers and peers that can foster growth in Oracy. We need to the discourage the misnomer that “talk” does not need tuition and that if children are talking they are not learning. This view has little connection with reality. Employers often indicate that they want to recruit people who are effective public communicators and team workers. But they also complain that job candidates often lack such skills – not surprising if they have not been taught them.
In the media conferences at Dreamworld, one true orator stood out and provided high quality, factual information in a timely manner, whilst at the same time skillfully berating the media for their wanton speculation, all the while getting his strong message across to a distressed public. This man, one of the few true orators I have met in my career is Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd of the Queensland Police Service. His message is truthful, sincere and thorough.
If there ever was an advertisement for the importance of Oracy in our educational curriculum, this was it. This was an exemplar to follow to show that oracy should be lauded in the same breaths as literacy and numeracy in our school curriculum. I see it in my work every day; people’s inability to structure effective verbal sentences and hence strong and persuasive arguments to the points they are seeking to put across.
Oracy effects culture. Barack Obama, John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr and Paul Keating (and many others through time) delivered speeches that were so effective that they changed culture; provided hope; distilled strategy into a straightforward direction to a point where their words are almost commonplace in our society today. Words and ideas that were carefully planned and thought through and delivered at a measured pace that enabled us to digest their message and learn from it. Through their art, culture and belief were changed and society has been the greater for it ever since. This is what great art does.
It is unfortunate that I began this post with reference to a tragedy, but it is the skills of true orators in these times of anguish and despair who can really bring a community together. Through their sage words and phrases, we can take heed in the strength of their message to guide us to where we need to be.