Jo Nova – sabotaging herself with paper stripes

Joanne Nova is an Australian who describes herself as “a greenie who grew up”. The blog on her website attracts two million hits a year. The website is subtitled “tackling tribal groupthink”.That makes her a maverick. I like mavericks. On YouTube I found this speech where it is described by whoever uploaded it as ‘Joanne Nova’s Most Convincing Speech Yet’. With a testimonial like that, how could I resist?

When we join the video she is being introduced at a Perth election rally in September 2011, in the windy open air on a makeshift stage. My interest quickens: this is proper, raw, unsterilised speaking terrain! Her introduction takes 57 seconds, That’s something I always note, because of my wanting to time her hump.

If you’ll forgive the cliché she hits the ground running. What a relief! In this environment there’s no room for suave, pretty, urbane openings. You have to grab your audience hard and quick and by the throat. She does just that with three-quarters of a minute’s barrage of uncompromising statements and statistics, shot from the hip. What hump? It’s there all right but she isn’t merely busting it, she’s beating it into submission. This is very impressive. Is she self-taught or trained? Who cares? It’s working.

And then at 1:40 her eyes go down to her script and immediately she becomes a talking head. The spontaneity instantly diminishes and gets replaced by carefully written, stilted sentences. Pauses appear where pauses shouldn’t when her eyes having lifted to the crowd then have to search for her place again. At 2:11 she reads out a statistic with which she is so familiar that her head rises and for a time stays risen with only occasional glances at her script, and immediately that opening impetus returns.

And so a fascinating pattern forms which continues throughout the whole speech. The speech is stripey!  Now compelling and captivating through being shot from the hip: now limp and emasculated through being script-driven. It is a very dramatic illustration of the effect of paper on the quality of delivery.

Luckily she is so steeped in her subject, and so fiercely driven by it, that the paper-driven stripes are relatively few and narrow; but they devastate her momentum when they appear. Not for the first time in this blog I just want to tear that paper away.  All she needs is the ability to create simple mind-map structures that would enable her to look the audience permanently in the eye and shoot from the hip. When she does that her impact is fantastic! And those structures are so easy, both to create and to use.

A few paragraphs ago I mused whether she was self-taught or trained. I think I have the answer. She’s got a long way already: now she just needs a little extra help. F&T would help.

N.B. Her closing passage is the one bit I would permit her to read.

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