What if I told you there was one distinctive secret of world champion presentations that separates them from all others?
Well there most certainly is…
I don’t talk about it much anymore these days, but a big part of how I started my speaking career was by competing in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.
It’s a contest where 25,000 contestants compete over 9 months for the chance to be called the World Champion of Public Speaking.
I joined Toastmasters in October 2005 when I was 22 years old and I saw the World Championship as a way to establish some credibility for myself in the world of professional speaking.
Over the next 2 years, I did 304 speeches for free, received over 2,200 evaluations, watched over 3,000 hours of film, read dozens of books and took dozens of courses in the art of speaking.
In August of 2006, I made it to the World Championships: the top 10 speakers in the world. That year though, I lost.
But in August of 2007, however, I made it back to the World Championship and that was the year that I…well I lost again but I lost higher!
As Jerry Seinfeld would say, I was “the #1 loser.” Because in 2007 I became the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking First Runner Up. In other words, I came in second place in the world just after my 24th birthday.
But after all of that relentless study, I realized that there was 1 primary secret between the winning speeches and everyone else.
To this day, I’ve noticed the same to be true on the professional speaking circuit and in all of the presentations we see at various companies.
Here’s the secret…
Most people take a 9-minute speech and try to cram it into 7 minutes (the maximum amount of allowable time in a Toastmasters competition).
The champions take a 4-minute speech and they deliver it in 6.
Champions realize that less is more.
They allow time for pauses.
They allow time for laughter.
They allow time for spontaneous connection with the audience.
And that is true for any presenter – whether it’s a CEO at a company meeting, an entrepreneur at a pitch meeting to investors, a salesperson trying to demonstrate the benefits of a product to a prospect, or a professional speaker speaking to an audience.
You have to allow time for space and margin and connection.
It is one of the most challenging but important disciplines of professional speaking.
Most people can’t do it.
Most people instead try to say everything they know in the short amount of time they have alloted.
Don’t do that.
As Mark Twain once said, “brevity is the essence of wisdom.”
And remember as James C. Humes wrote…
There are 66 words in the Lord’s Prayer…most people can recite it.
There are 179 words in the 10 Commandments…most people know a few.
There are 282 words in the Gettysburg Address…most people would at least recognize it.
And then there are 26,911 words in the United States Government’s regulation on the sale of cabbage!
And nobody cares!
Less is more.