Thursday, February 17, 2011

Power Speaking: From KABOOM to KaPlunk.

KABOOM! The speaker takes the microphone and proceeds to speak with high enthusiasm, passion and energy! They've got your attention, and you're getting excited and involved. This is the kind of speaker we love to hear. They are pumped up, their material is perfect for us, and we can't wait to hear what they have to say next.

KABOOM! Minutes 2-4. Wow, that speaker is still pumped, still loud, still intent on driving that message home. OK - they're excited, they want to get me excited, and I'm sure I need to hear this.

KABOOM? Minutes 4-8. Whew. Still going. I'm tired already - everything is so crucial, I can't keep up. How much longer is this speaker going for?

KaPlunk. OK, this speaker simply doesn't have another gear. I don't even know what I'm supposed to remember anymore. I've got a headache. I think I'll check my twitter stream - they won't notice anyway...

Have you heard this speaker? Have you BEEN this speaker?

It's easy to do. We want to impress. We have tons of nervous energy, and we have been taught to channel it on the stage. And, frankly, we're excited about what we have to say. Its easy to think if we say it loud enough, people will realize they have to listen!

Sometimes its easy to think this is they way it works. When our parents wanted us to listen, they raised their voices. When movies reach moments of high emotion, typically the music goes up, and in some cases the walls shake with car crashes and explosions. We see snippets of other speakers giving their best stuff, and they are loud and energetic as they take their audience to a new level. Being loud must mean being effective, right?

Well, sort of.

It's true that the loud, energetic parts of life are often more memorable than the quieter, more mundane intervals between. But it's those calmer interludes that make the excitement exciting, by giving us enough contrast to identify what is exciting in the first place. They allow us to savor the good parts. Just as important, they let us rest and catch up, if only for a short time, and be ready for more.

Great television, movies, and writing all use varying rhythms as they go from beginning to end. In between dramatic events, they set the stage with setting the scene, character development, and reaction time after the big explosions.

Bonus Exercise

A. Think of your favorite movie, and write down your favorite parts
B. Watch the movie again, and plot the energy levels as the story moves along
C. What correlation do you see between what's memorable to you, and the corresponding energy level?
D. What may be most memorable to others?

Remember, we all process differently. Sometimes it's the quietest moments, not the loudest, that end up providing the most impact.

By all means, speak with energy and enthusiasm. But be aware of the reverse monotone effect - if everything is loud and important, nothing will stand out, and your audience will leave unaffected by your speech, other than a need to go someplace calm and quiet while they recover from the shock and awe you provided going from KABOOM to KaPlunk.

Don't know if you have too much KABOOM? Send me a video at, and I'll be happy to help you Speak & Deliver instead!

1 comment:

  1. Rich: Another excellent post. Overdoing the volume also is known as going “up to eleven” as shown here.



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