Aside

No Pause, No Processing

Everything important happens in the pause.

Understand that the pause is the between space where an idea is shared, and that idea is understood.

I just finished doing 6 weeks of speaking – my first-ever “high season” of doing a bunch of paid keynote speeches back-to-back. At these many venues, I watched the other speakers: their ideas, their stories, their bookends and techniques to see what they are accomplishing with the audiences. And what I saw didn’t surprise me. It did, however, horrify me. Most – if not all – speakers show up to show you how smart they are. They dazzle with facts, busy PowerPoint slides with lots of bullet points, and well-done videos to show case their own ideas (never anyone else’s). All of this is meant to impress.

But the one thing none of them do is pause. They barely breathe, let alone allow you have an idea of your own. The reason they don’t pause? Because then they are wasting the valuable 60 minutes they have to show you how smart they are (so you can then hire them for consulting).

Let me just say what complete bullshit that is.

If there is no pause, there is no learning. The speaker who is doing the dazzle doesn’t give a shit if you get anything from their talk other than to confirm their authority. It’s like the partner who, in bed, doesn’t care about your experience of it.  It’s all about them.

 

This applies to all areas of life. The pause is where an idea becomes shared.

As a co-creator of ideas (my definition of what the 21st century work is…), we each gotta get good at the pause. The story is in the pause. There’s what you think or I think, and then there’s when we understand… until we allow the pause, we never even allow that moment to happen.

The world is changing faster. “Gravity” has changed. “Environment” has changed. “Competition” has changed. Having more facts or dazzle will not help someone to go back to work that much more ready for the world we live in.

I know I’m not an “easy” or “funny” speaker. Those who love my style and ideas say I’m an “inspiring” speaker. Those that don’t like me as much call me a “transformational” speaker. Same difference. I am only interested in being of service to that audience in that moment so I frame what is going on in such a way they are better enabled to win. I am asking — sometimes challenging — the audience to re*imagine either the basis of market power, or their own sense of power, or what it looks like to share power within the walls of their enterprise. So that they can be prepared for the world in which we now operate.

There are no absolute answers to win in this changing terrain. So, we need to think, and re*imagine, and actually process the ideas we get exposed to. We each have to have our own thoughts, our own insights. This is how we will be ready for what is next. My job as a world-class speaker is to allow a pause to do that.  Your job in whatever you do is to do the same.

<pause>

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12 Responses:

  1. Marsha Keeffer. December 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm  |  

    Best thing I’ve read in weeks!

    Reply
  2. David Holzmer. December 17, 2011 at 1:42 am  |  

    Wonderful post. Leads me to think about the power of liminality–the undefined space between. More and more I’m convinced that creativity emerges in space between all we know. Your post helps drive that point home in a direct and poignant way.

    Many thanks!
    ~d

    Reply
  3. CTodd. December 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm  |  

    White space for speaking…!

    Reply
  4. Sandy O. December 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm  |  

    Reminds me of the Laws of Simplicty per John Maeda…..# 10 in his book…THE ONE: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful

    Reply
    • Nilofer Merchant. December 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm  |  

      Maeda would approve of the pause, I am sure.

      Reply
  5. MJ. December 18, 2011 at 12:08 am  |  

    I am an avid reader of this blog so I re read this post to see if I felt differently 48 hours later. While I agree that a “pause” is where the greatest learning happens, the tone of this post was surprising. It sounded a bit lecturing and superior. Most key noters are chosen because they do have something interesting to share (data, a unique perspective , or a thought provoking story.) Many, if not most, have big egos, and may even think they are the smartest person in the room. So…the audience that does not learn something needs to reflect this in the evals so that these folks quit being hired by conference organizers. If the audience does leave with helpful thought provoking ideas to take back to the water cooler, it probably shows that a variety of presentation styles can be effective.

    Reply
    • Nilofer Merchant. December 19, 2011 at 5:18 pm  |  

      Of course variety of styles can be effective. So can my range of tone in reaching people.

      Reply
  6. Patrick Tipton. December 19, 2011 at 12:12 am  |  

    Bravo! This new world is all about the generosity inherent in openly sharing your unique gifts without expectation of receiving anything in return.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  7. Carol Sanford. January 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm  |  

    Yes, Yes, yes, There is one related idea. People need to have an idea in their mind before they listen to someone else’s or no learning or creativity takes place. So challenging people with the opening of a talk with a question is more engaging for everyone. Then if possible asking people what changed for them from putting the two ideas (theirs {and others I bring} together. Often something new happens because they are not expected to be sponges who give a standing ovation for you and your ego. They are focused on their own ability to evolve thinking. And often you hear a new idea in the reflections that moves your own thinking. It is amazing how often that happens. The aim is to evolve ideas and ability to evolve ideas. Thanks for the excellent reflective post.

    Reply
  8. Milton Friesen. January 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm  |  

    I’d suggest that the setting is perhaps silent culprit. I’ve been at too many “here are hundreds of really bright people sitting still and listening to one person” gatherings to count. A couple of years ago The Art of Marketing brought a bunch of talking heads to Toronto to talk to us 1500 dutifully paying attendees. And that was just it, if we could have talked to each other I bet there would have been a whole lot more insight than hearing Seth Godin and company tell us what their books already said.

    Why do we pay to hear this stuff? We still haven’t quite caught up with how the “us” works and still tolerate the mass broadcast, industrial information model of conferences that sell us seats to a passive event (who cares if you have a “networking lunch” with a few people or coffee breaks to “connect”) where we hear individuals who already have too much airtime. The “us” is much harder work so we opt to attend, check it off our list, and move on, mostly unchanged. By the time you agree to be a speaker at these things, you’ve already signed on to the whole set of assumptions in the structure.

    Thanks for the helpful provocation.

    Reply

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