September 28, 2012 fm

Aren’t We Small?

At the end of the year I’ll publish my second book. PLUSPLUS will offer you more than one hundred Patterns for Better Communication. In three blocks – content, delivery, slides – you will learn about boosters and brakes. The book will cover a wide range of ways to improve your communication both on and off stage.

“3.6 Years” is a sneak preview chapter from the sub-block Content Brakes.


3.6 Years

When my son Alvaro was five years old, I bought him a dinosaur book. Like so many kids, he loves the T-Rex, and like so many parents, I also read those books with great interest. One number made me shiver.

Dinosaurs became extinct some 65 million years ago. I knew that. But did you know how many years dinosaurs populated this planet?

165,000,000 years.

I found another number that made me think a lot in Mark Twain’s classic Letters from the Earth. When we look at the sky at night, we see zillions of stars. And yet, at the beginning of time, the sky was black. No stars at all. Light must travel. It took 3.6 years until the first dot of light appeared. If we could travel at light speed, 299,792,458 meters per second, it would take 3.6 years to reach the next solar system.

Aren’t we small?

And yet, there is absolutely no need at all to make ourselves even smaller — but that’s exactly what we do all the time, in both everyday communication and on stage.

99⅓% of all business presentations in Spain start like this:

Hoy vamos a hablar un poco de nuestra empresa.

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about our company. Hey! Wait just a minute — what do you mean, A little bit? A little bit ? ! ?

Your company is your passion, your life, your future — why would you want to talk about it a little bit?

I refer to things like this as ‘message reducers’, and our vocabulary simply teems with them.

A little bit, little, small, short, simple, simply, quick, quickly, hopefully, probably, potentially, basically, actually, perhaps, maybe, could, should, would, ought to, think, believe, guess, try, want, pretty much, kind of, rather, quite —

The list goes on — and on — and on. We are all world champions when it comes to diminishing our message — and ourselves.

Stop it!

You don’t want to inflate yourself and get all puffed up. That would be perceived, justifiably, as arrogant. But, my friend, you don’t want to make yourself littler, either.

Turn these poorer phrases:

  • We try to achieve this goal.
  • I believe you can do it.
  • It’s just an initiative.
  • We should be more aggressive in marketing and sales.
  • I will tell you a little bit about our company.

into these richer phrases:

  • We will achieve this goal!
  • I know you can do this!
  • It’s a fantastic initiative!
  • Let’s be more aggressive in marketing and sales!
  • I will share with you some exciting insights about our company!

Release the content brakes and throw out those message reducers.

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