Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The 15 percent less rule, a lifesaver for speeches & media interviews

It's said that former U.S. President Bill Clinton--famous for talking well past his assigned time slot, earlier in his career--has been able to rein himself in with what I call the "15 percent rule." The rule: You plan to fill 85 percent of the time allotted.

That leaves 15 percent of your time as a cushion to ensure you don't exceed the limit. But the benefits go further, and Clinton uses it as time in which he can make an aside, or do some back-and-forth with the audience extemporaneously, based on where he feels the audience is emotionally, on the spot.

This rule also works when you a media interview before you. You'll often hear radio interviewers signal, "We just have 20 seconds left..." to prompt the interviewee to be brief. Why not make better use of your time by stopping short of what you see as complete?

When I coach a group of speakers, or train a group of experts in media interview skills, I sometimes ask them to complete a questionnaire in advance. "I talk too long" is among the most common self-assessments they make, and to my ear, that reads as "I'm unwilling to take the time to plan and make choices about the content I'm going to present, based on the needs of the audience or the interviewer." I always recommend the 15 percent rule as one of the tools you can use to achieve better media interviews and speeches. The old vaudeville rule "Leave them wanting more" really says it best!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Luigi Mengato)

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