Remember when professional dancers were relegated to Broadway musicals, star performer back-ups, or hip-hop acts? Basically, they were perceived as window dressing. However, the success of Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance and similar shows has made this art form vibrant, athletic and wildly appealing once again.
Now a poet spinning his words into visual snapshots and engaging stories has captured audiences and brought an ancient art form onto the world stage. At just 27 years of age, Brandon Leake won first place and one million dollars on this season of America’s Got Talent
. Leake beat nine other final contestants who were singers, acrobats, and performed much flashier acts. Why did he win?
Leake’s words created an emotional response that touched people. Judge and Comedian Howie Mandel said, “I’ve never been more moved in my life on this show by any other act.” Was Leake’s subject matter intellectual or high-brow? No. His spoken word poems featured the birth of his child, racism, his estranged father and the loss of his sister.
This shift in popular culture is instructive to speakers. Do we need arguments directed to academic discourse? Text rich PowerPoint presentations? Polished and perfect delivery? Not if you want to inspire and move audiences, or persuade a client to buy your product and services. Leake tapped into a core truth about Homo Sapiens—we love stories focused around a common theme, like childbirth or loss or reaching beyond our limitations. And we make decisions, like awarding prizes (or contracts) to those who display their feelings and by extension, move us. Balance your intellect with the strength of your convictions. Be unguarded and courageous. There’s no better way to win.