How do you compare to the former President?
The following text is the beginning of Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech. I first published this almost ten years ago. It was a great lesson then, and still is.
Find yourself a timer, press start, and read. Read it as if you’re in front of the hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C. (*Actual hundreds of thousands, not in Trump numbers.)
“Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens. Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution, we affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional, what makes us America, is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Now, press STOP.
It took Barack Obama 70 seconds to say that.
How long did it take you?
People think he’s a good, even great speaker. They even applauded. A lot!
Auditory processing is hard. Giving your listeners time to process one thought is more important than trying to express two or three thoughts in the same amount of time. If you don’t pause to let them process your message, they’ll come away with nothing.
So the next time you find yourself speaking in front of hundreds of thousands of adoring followers, be sure to pause. Long and often. But even if you only have a handful of listeners, my bet is that you could pause longer and more often. Your message, and its weight, will be better received if you do.
Listen to Obama here: