We’ve all been there. Sometimes it starts with the seemingly innocuous phrase:
“I just have a quick question..”
Sometimes it starts with:
“That’s an interesting point, you know, what we’ve found is that …”
And then it doesn’t stop for two minutes, five minutes, eight minutes. The record I’ve seen (and I timed it, retrospectively,) was over nine minutes. A diatribe of epic proportions foisted on an unsuspecting, innocent and undeserving audience. And I use that word deliberately; as this is an audience in the truest sense of the word. No pause is given for comment. No invitation to build on the thought. No gap provided for someone to interject.
Everyone else attending are simply ornaments, set to admire the stream of consciousness that the perpetrator emits, on, and on, and on, and on. There is no interactivity, there is no conversation, there is no building on ideas.
This, my friends, is what I see at conference after conference after conference. Someone (and nine times out of ten it’s a white, middle-aged male, just like me), feels it’s their duty to monopolize the question, and, or, the answer. To dominate the conversation so that no other voice, idea or dissenting opinion can be heard.
Over the past year I’ve been observing and collecting the tactics that these mic-hogs use. Here are my top six:
1. Use of the word ‘and’ to join every sentence, and ensure that there are no gaps in the stream of verbal diarrhea that spews forth at a mile a minute. Ever
2. Extended half-pauses between words and mixed in with sentences, but never, ever at the end of a sentence, as that would spell some sort of closure
3. Repetition of a core idea in multiple variations, with the invariable effect that the first, often quite coherent idea, is masked by another dozen flavors so that by the end of the thought no-one has a clue what the original precept was
4. Filler words, used between every third word to extend a short phrase into War and Peace. Words like, ‘you know’ (ok, that’s two words, technically), ‘right?’ (used as a question) and my favorite – ‘see’. As if we couldn’t see, or hear, because there’s frankly nothing else to focus on, other than their words
5. ‘What I’m really trying to say’ as a preface for every sentence, and as a joiner between sentences, with the invariable effect of completely clouding what was, actually, the intent of the thought
6. Buzz word spaghetti, the use of so many buzz phrases like paradigm shift, agile marketing approach, content curation, big data dichotomy and SEM, ERP, SEO, RMP all the other acronyms we use to portray our insider knowledge of the marketing game, that only a marketing linguistics professor could interpret the multiple sentences or extended paragraph
So, this is a quick appeal to everyone out there in conference, workshop, seminar, brainstorm and breakout session land:
Just. Press. Pause. Please
Take a breath. Or two. Relax. Look up. Compose your thoughts. And let others build on your genius. Speaking all by yourself is a lonely task. One times zero is zero. One times any other number is more. Lawyers call these folk Gunners. So, let others in, let others have fun too, let others share in your glory. Don’t be a Gunner. And then, perhaps, we’ll all stay awake and enjoy our time together just that little bit more.