How do you compare to The President?
The following text is the beginning of Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech.
Find yourself a timer (your computer or cell phone will have one), press start, and read. Read it as if you’re in front of the hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C.
“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 seventy seconds to say that.
How long did it take you? (Send me a note, I’d love to know!)
But wait, people think he’s a good, even great speaker. (They even applauded. Did you hear applause when you finished? I didn’t think so.)
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.
Nothing but a feeling that you just wasted their time.
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:
(The portion you read begins at 0:54)