A lot of people in the business think that ChatGPT and her cousins are going to take my job away. Meh, if the bots can take my job, let them. Besides, I think that advertising dollars have too much control over the social internet and reducing the number of real people working in the industry will make it easier to argue that it provides little value and is generally harmful.
I digress. The ability to communicate clearly, to drive points home and to convince people to see your way of things is not common. There are millions, possibly billions, of people whose ideas never get past their initial pitch because they could not find the words. The mind goes directly to businesses. But it goes far beyond that. Brilliant students who understood the book but the essay failed them, sharp political minds that lost out to charismatic shills, scientific mavericks that can envision solutions to some of our biggest problems but fail to connect to the public.
Using AI could teach people how to unpack their ideas, simplify concepts, establish flow and much more.
The obvious benefit of AI chatbots to them would be getting over the hump that is a blank document. Even the best writers admit to being intimidated by a blinking cursor. However, there’s a secondary benefit and this is what really excites me. Using AI could teach people how to unpack their ideas, simplify concepts, establish flow and much more.
First, a prompt.
Take ChatGPT, for example. First, you come up with a prompt. Usually, you do not get what you need on the first try. With multiple attempts at coming up with a ‘bullseye’ prompt, you are working through just what you want to say and how you want to say it. This step is the same as with writing any piece. You have to figure out a rough outline that takes you from introduction to body to conclusion. To communicate effectively you must learn to organize your thinking, step by step.
Once the bot has given you a first draft, the manual editing begins. Again, you know what you want and as you read, you remove the parts that you do not want. The lessons here are harder to fit into a box. You’re looking at what is hopefully a close approximation of your intended product and you are making decisions about what the final form will be. Do this enough and you may start to see how an initial idea turns into a piece of communication that works.
Perhaps you’ll stop after a quick edit or you’ll rearrange the whole thing, maybe you’ll even start from scratch with a more refined prompt. Throughout, you’ll be refining your thoughts and working through the points of friction – some of which you’ll be delighted to discover as you are editing.
Morning people vs Night owls
It may help to think of good communicators vs poor communicators using the example of morning people vs night owls. People who are most productive in the mornings enjoy the advantage of having their routine match the near-universally accepted work day. They are energetic and engaged for meetings, they knock out tasks and contribute as needed. Crucially, they are seen doing this by supervisors, clients and colleagues. Outside the work environment, they are able to be fully present at the start of the day. If they are parents, they can make sure the family gets a good start to the day. As romantic partners, they can be holding a hot cup of coffee right when their person wakes up, smiling wide, looking happy, refreshed and ready for whatever the day brings.
The night owl comes alive well into the afternoon. Their schedule is in exact opposition with the typical work day. They are slow to start in the mornings, the earlier they need to be awake the less productive they are going to be for most of the day. For the night owl, it is a triumph to simply be conscious and at their desk when 9 am rolls along. They may knock their projects, meet deadlines and even contribute in meaningful ways, but much of that goes unseen. They are likely considered to be ‘lazy’, unreachable and bad team players.
Get your voice heard
In the same way, we perceive people with better communication skills to be more competent, reliable and generally more pleasant to be around. Thankfully, those who struggle to get their point across can now improve their skills with less effort than the night owls. And using whatever tools are available to bridge the gap left by a lack of natural talent for interpersonal communication or public speaking can help equalize the playing field.
I know plenty of you believe that some things cannot be taught and that using tools like AI is akin to cheating. Many of my peers in the creative industry are downright hostile towards AI bots and for good reason. However, charisma counts for a lot in the race for success. It can literally make you seem more physically attractive.
In my line of work, some common phrases you’ll hear include “just bullshit it” or “I’m a great bullshitter“. This generally means that the person has perfected the art of filling the air with words that sound good, clever, helpful or relevant but really do not mean anything or have no tangible value backing them up. An accomplished bullshitter can go very far in advertising as I’m sure they do in fields like politics, law, media and cult leadership.
The trouble is, they’re eating up acclaim and resources that could be going to people who actually do have meaningful contributions to make. In a world where the loudest voice in the room (digital or otherwise) gets the most consideration, it is important to build up your defenses against being shouted down or silenced.