Clubhouse is tipped to take over the world and become the public square of our times. It’s a virtual space of encounter between experts in all fields, celebrities and their fans, and even families and friends. For public speakers though, it’s more than that, it’s a game-changer in an industry that has been hugely impacted by the pandemic and put on hold for over a year now.
Should you be thankful for Clubhouse, or fear it? No one knows the answer to that question yet. However, there are already apparent pros and cons to using the app. We’re not trying to pick holes in it, but rather to understand both the limitations and the opportunities it offers. As Clubhouse is still in its beta stages, now more than ever is the time to open up the conversation about what it is and what it can become.
In this article, we look at the advantages and disadvantages from the public speaker’s point of view. As the app blurs the line between public speakers and their audiences still further, it’s important to understand how professional speakers need to reposition themselves to stand out.
1. Ideal for Starting Small and for Practicing.
This app is a blessing for newbies. In the past, those trying out public speaking for the first time had to do it in front of crowds. This is intimidating, to say the least. But on Clubhouse you have the luxury to start small. Invite your friends or colleagues and look at it as a nice, relaxing chat. The people you invite need not be experts in your topic to start with, but it would also be great to connect with peers that have a good understanding of your subject matter. The app gives you a platform to test a keynote you’ve developed, practice your rhetorical skills, and generally just get comfortable being on a stage, albeit a virtual one for now.
One might argue that Clubhouse doesn’t have so much to offer for experienced speakers, but that’s not necessarily true. It might not help those used to appearing on stage in terms of overcoming their stage fright, but it does offer a great way to test a new talk with a very active audience. If you treat it as practice, you’ll find that it can help you improve upon your content as you test it in rooms.
It’s not for nothing that Kevin Hart ‘walked into’ a room titled “Is Kevin Hart funny?” Clubhouse is a great platform if you want to get feedback. Which brings me to my next point.
The reason you can test so well on Clubhouse is because it gives the audience a voice. The public can contribute more than at a conference, they can also take to the stage. People are given the opportunity to be more active and interact, and most do so more than in live events. You should use this built-in interactivity to get feedback, gauge reactions to your content and make changes to it afterwards. Make notes of what people say and assess the direction the conversation takes, in order to refine the content of your talk. If you have the right audience, they will be able to give you the feedback you would not have access to when speaking in a conference hall. The fact that content is open for discussion is both terrifying and incredibly useful at the same time. If you don’t want to let fear get in the way of improvement, Clubhouse is a great place to start.
You will need to filter the information you receive, as not everyone joining a room will have something useful or meaningful to say. However, the more you interact with your audience, the more likely you are to get some very interesting insights.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard the story of Elon Musk having a conversation with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on Clubhouse. It’s what kicked off this craze and helped make the app a unicorn startup. But the point is not the popularity Musk brought the app, rather the opportunities the app offers when it comes to networking. For many people, listening in on a conversation between Musk and Tenev is as good as entertainment can get. Some compared it to being a fly on the wall, but that might be a bit of a stretch. The word ‘room’ might make us think of Musk’s office, but this is as public as a virtual space gets. When it comes to Clubhouse, it’s not exclusivity we’re getting, rather it’s the access to people and content that were previously out of reach for most, like attending a conference where Elon Musk is invited to speak. Clubhouse brings those otherwise inaccessible talks straight to your headphones.
The example of Elon Musk shows the level of access to experts Clubhouse offers. You can meet and network with experts from around the globe if you join the right rooms. Taking networking to a whole new level is definitely one of the best uses for Clubhouse and you should make the most of it.
4. Peer Feedback and Support
So far, give or take the odd horror story, Clubhouse seems to be a very supportive environment. Despite the risks that come with the democratisation of any space, be it virtual or physical, the advantages of meeting peers and having inspiring, educating discussions with them outweigh the disadvantages. There will be times when you feel uncomfortable interacting, and there will be times when the conversation is so interesting and relevant that you’ll feel compelled to raise your hand and contribute. Peer feedback is invaluable in any field of expertise, and because it’s an informal space, Clubhouse makes it easy for everyone to interact and add to the discussion. It’s a great way to keep up with your industry, find out about the different challenges and issues the industry faces around the world, open up debates, and even to ask your peers for feedback and support.
5. Volume of Content
The number of rooms opened each day and the volume of content already on the app is impressive. You can listen to conversations about almost any topic you can imagine, and it’s a great way to take the pulse of the world and find out what matters to people. And it’s not just the wide range of topics that makes this app so great, it’s also the depth of the conversations on it. Of course, some serious filtering needs to be done, but once you find the right groups and tap into the right content, you’ll find a wealth of high-quality, thought-provoking discussions taking place.
As more and more people join, the number of experts in all fields will increase as well. Clubhouse has the potential to become a fascinating platform that opens up discussions between people from all over the world.
6. Clubhouse is its own thing
Every speaker who has given virtual talks over the past year knows that they aren’t quite the real deal. And Clubhouse isn’t either, but nor does it want to be. It’s simply new, and after a very repetitive year, it’s more than welcome. If all the advantages that I have named above tell you anything, it’s that Clubhouse is unique in the way it facilitates interactions. While virtual conferences try to emulate the real deal, they are bound to fall short. Whereas, Clubhouse presses the reset button and starts over, blurring the boundaries between speakers and audiences. While opening up the stage for everybody might have its drawbacks, there is certainly something to be said for the new dynamics Clubhouse brings about.
1. Volume of Content
While the wealth of information and expertise on the app is one of its biggest advantages, curiously, it’s also one of its main pitfalls. From beat battles to moan rooms (believe it or not, that is where people make sex noises and expect to be rated), Clubhouse has it all. With more and more people expected to join once its Android version is launched this summer, the number of relevant rooms may not grow as quickly as the number of less than relevant rooms.
The best way to ensure you don’t get lost in the maze of content, and reliably access rooms that are interesting and facilitate meaningful discussions is to create or join a club. That way you will be able to curate or access only trustworthy information and protect yourself from “false friends”.
2. Lack of Credibility
Misinformation is a huge problem that all social media platforms have, and Clubhouse is no exception. Giving a voice to everyone is always going to raise questions around the credibility of those who deliver a message. There is no way, and some would argue there shouldn’t be a way, of curating or censoring the content. It’s all down to each user’s ability to sieve through the information and avoid rooms and speakers that aren’t credible.
Again, the best way to do that is to form or join clubs as a way to select the users you interact with. This will allow you to use Clubhouse for a specific purpose as well, e.g. for professional networking, expert advice, honing your public speaking skills, etc.
3. Content Moderation - an Afterthought
Blocking or reporting users isn’t possible at the moment. Trolls can easily go about their trolling because Clubhouse does not allow users to report harassment or other violations of its terms of service. There is simply no integrated way within the app to do that.
As it stands, you just have to put up with abuse and harassment if it comes your way. Luckily, this is limited to the rooms, as users cannot contact each other on the app. However, the whole point of being on the app is to become visible, and most users want to link to other social profiles, whether it’s their Instagram, Twitter or a personal website. There have been times when harassment has been taken off the app, onto other social media platforms, making it difficult to control.
Much like any other social media apps that took off out of the blue, Clubhouse has had very little time to figure out rules and regulations that would create a safe environment for its users. There are some rules of conduct, however, the app heavily relies on its users being civil. In a democratic environment, as we have learnt from Facebook and Twitter already, the need for a true understanding of democracy is essential. It involves some (in this case, self-imposed) limitations upon individual freedom. In the name of democratisation, Clubhouse has gone for the slightly anarchic model, rather than the democratic model.
However, in the name of privacy, discussions are not being recorded, which means the content is ephemeral, but also means that there is no lasting evidence of misconduct. It remains to be seen how Clubhouse will deal with privacy regulations if it decides to record and hold on to the recordings of discussions in rooms.
4. Ever-changing Audiences
If you’re thinking of opening up a room, be sure to schedule and plan the discussions to a T. On Clubhouse, the audience can come in and out of a room of their own volition whenever they like. This sounds great, but if the conversation has progressed with the people that joined from the start, it makes little sense to allow new members of the audience that just dropped in to rehash already discussed points.
Be polite and explain that their point has already been up for debate and then “reset the room” back to where you were. The positive thing is, the moderator has the power to turn off the microphone of members of the audience, which provides a good deal of control over where the conversation is taken.
Clubhouse presents new challenges and new opportunities for you as a public speaker. It will require you to have not just rhetorical skills, but also learn how to drive the conversation in the direction you want it to go, as well as listen more than you are maybe used to as a professional speaker. It will also help you refine your debating skills, which isn’t the worst thing to be good at, is it?