Sometimes less really IS more. I just returned from a weekend at a Buddhist/Zen meditation center (those who know me found it amusing that I chose to be (or even could be!) silent for a full day … but that’s a different story). As always, I was (subconsciously) on the lookout for good marketing ideas. I’m an idea collector and I’ve learned to be okay with that. ;-> And this weekend produced yet another good one. This time about the art of great speeches.
In my consulting with executives, I’m often in the role of speechwriter and speech coach, both of which I love to do. What struck me about the Zen teachers at the retreat is how very, very, very slowly they spoke. As if every word had a deep meaning. To them each word clearly did, and therefore to the audience, each word took on a special significance.
Personally, I tend to to speak very quickly — either in front of an audience or just one-on-one. My passion about topics tends to come out as speed. For the Zen teachers, the passion was clearly there but expressed in the exact opposite way (that realization in itself is a Zen teaching …).
There were often very long pauses before they began speaking and in between thoughts. They were extremely professional and had notes about what they wanted to express but they did so in a very measured and extremely thoughtful way. Especially when answering questions from the audience, you could almost watch the wheels move in their head. They clearly thought through each answer and the process of thinking was almost a of form of honoring the questioner. None of the answers seemed canned although I’m sure they were common questions (this was a beginner workshop). I was fascinated by the way they presented. So different from most presenters, even ones who speak in a measured and controlled fashion.
In Toastmasters, one of the things they teach is the art of the pause. But these two teachers used pauses in a whole different and extended way. I’ve always been afraid that some pauses might seem too long. Watching these two teachers it became clear to me that a very long pause, as long as it’s followed by a thoughtful comment or response can’t ever be “too” long.
So next time you’re up speaking, and particularly when you’re asked a question, use the art of the very long pause before articulating your response. It may give you an opportunity to honor the question and the questioner, and also collect your thoughts enough to let your true wisdom shine through for your audience.