The great thing about quotes is that they hang around, just waiting for the right occasion! So I’m going to lift this one which I will use to illustrate the theme of this month’s article.
It comes from a certain John Martins Jr; “Life is not a race, but a journey to be savoured each step of the way.”
I watch a great many presentations. These include professional presentations, training presentations and of course ‘hero’ presentations from the wider world, which can provide lessons for us all.
While Google is less forthcoming about Mr Martin Jr’s identity, his words are nevertheless great advice for many delivering ‘lesser-hero’ presentations. Too often it seems as if the object of the game is to get it over with rather than to take the time to engage at each step.
Often the content is all in order, but it is the delivery which is lacking. All too often it is the pace of the delivery which lets the presenter down.
Take a look at the greats, those who have developed and honed their craft as orators. You will see the way they effortlessly glide through the gears. They pick the pace up when they want to grab the attention, raise the energy, fuel the expectation. They slow the pace down when they want to emphasise an opinion, hammer home a fact or score a point.
Barack Obama was (is) a master at this. He could be stern, critical, challenging, empathetic, compassionate, humble… and all within the space of a few pages of a speech. The words may not have been too dissimilar to those delivered by politicians over time millennia, but he had the capability to make them dance to a different tune.
If you want to see the master at work, observe this speech, with added heckler. Note how he uses nothing but words and the pace of his delivery to take what would have been a conflict flashpoint for most and turn it into a crowd pleasing positive.
Aside from watching presentations, I am constantly observing discussions, conversations, the way that people small talk around business. If you want to know about pace, take a seat in a pub or a restaurant or even a family party and watch the interactions going on around you.
As social beings, this knack for bending conversation to attract the engagement of those around us is innate. The process begins at a very early age as we learn how to stand out, to make ourselves heard. Consequently, we do it naturally (admittedly some do it more naturally than others) in any social situation through the course of normal conversation.
That story we tell about yesterday’s experience at work, that whinge about the commute, reminiscences about what we saw on Netflix last night… these snippets are all punctuated by changes in pace as we engage and react to the response of our fellow conversationalists.
There is a simple lesson in this. I will go back to Mr Martins Jr’s quote. The learning, the knowledge, the takeaway, is all the result of a journey. It is found in epic sweeps, such as a lifetime’s work, but it also found in those micro-instalments – in 30 minute presentations, meeting room pitches and negotiations to land the deal.
Concentrate on the journey. Your speech – the words and how you say them – is like a car, and getting from A to B requires the shifting of gears to manoeuvre around obstacles and navigate contours. Acknowledge the power of pace and make that journey count!
I will leave you with one of my favourite scenes from a Martin Scorsese movie. Leonardo Di Caprio, plays Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street. Warning, this scene does contain some gratuitous language, reflective of the macho culture of trading from yesteryear, but the use of pace in the sales pitch is fantastic.