Conservative icon and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh recently signed an eight year deal for $400 million. Who says you can’t make money speaking? Each day, an estimated 15 million people tune their radios to Rush’s syndicated talk show — talk about a large audience. Whether you love him or hate him, those of us aspiring to become great communicators can learn a lot from Rush Limbaugh (and other talk radio hosts). Here are four lessons that will help you regardless of your political leanings:
Lesson 1: People don’t have to agree with you to listen to you.
I know a number of hard core liberals that listen to Rush daily. Many call in to his show, hoping to give him a piece of their mind while others are interested in having a spirited, yet civil debate. I honestly admire people that can call a talk radio host whom they are on the opposite side of the political spectrum of and have a respectful conversation.
But the main point that is many of us fear saying something during a speech or conversation that others may disagree with and we shouldn’t feel that way — we all have a right to our opinions. Although it’s unfortunate that there are people that will dislike you the moment they find out you don’t hold the same beliefs as them, these people are a small minority (a very vocal, but very small minority). As long as you respect the opinions of others, avoid name calling and speak in a non-angry fashion, it’s okay to take a position on something you believe in. But also remember the goal of your speech and avoid going off topic to share your opinion unless it’s relevant to your talk.
Lesson 2: Controversy can get people interested in you and your topic.
If you look at the three biggest talk radio personalities (Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern and Don Imus), they’ve all had their share of controversies over the last few years. With Rush, there was his comment that the only reason people cared about Donavan McNabb was his race. With Imus, there was the “nappy headed hoes” comment. And with Howard Stern, his show has been chock full of controversy since day one.
It’s a pity, but controversy is often an effective way to get people interested in you. Controversy gets people talking which is why the news is obsessed with it — it makes an interesting story. I’ll sometimes use a speech title or opening statement that appears controversial as an attention getting device. I once gave a speech to a fun crowd and someone’s cell phone went off so I shouted out “if it’s President Bush asking for my advice on the Iraq War, tell him I’ll call him after my talk.” If people weren’t paying attention, I’m sure they started to.
Lesson 3: Content is more important than technology.
First we had television and now we have streaming video over the internet, but millions of people each day forego these mediums to listen to the radio. Sure, Rush has a paid streaming video service, Howard Stern is now on TV as well and MSNBC used to broadcast a video feed of Imus — but all three of these men have significantly more listeners than viewers.
So although technology is important and is something you should attempt to stay abreast in, you shouldn’t feel pressured to stay on the bleeding edge of technology. It is your content that’s most important. If your content is solid, you can use overhead transparencies instead of PowerPoint if that’s what works best for you.
Lesson 4: Developing a loyal following is priceless.
Whether you’re a speaker, entertainer or business owner, you need fans and you need to treat those fans well. Rush Limbaugh is arguably one of the most successful radio personalities of all time. He’s been broadcasting for about 20 years and people tune in day after day, week after week and year after year to hear his point of view on every major news story.
When I used to coach small businesses, I’d preach to my clients that they needed to keep their regulars happy. If you’re a speaker, what’s better than having a fan base that’s along the lines of the Grateful Dead’s deadheads? Provide consistency and live up to the set of standards that your fans hold you to.