Anyone Can Be More Effective with Time

The Thinker statue illustrates taking time to collect your thoughts

We learn a lot from the people we work with. Recently, on the last day of a workshop, one of our learners said that the most important thing he took from the class was that “Anyone can be more effective with time.” When he made this comment, he was talking about pausing long enough to make decisions during your presentations.  

Take Time to Pause 

This was an excellent insight and one that we should look at in greater detail.   

  • Pausing Benefits Everyone: First, it’s significant that he made this statement about “anyone.” This means that taking the time you need during your presentations is not only important for everyone but also that everyone is capable of it. It’s not magic or a secret skill that only a few people have. It’s universal.  

So, the first step everyone needs to take is to believe in their own ability to think on their feet and make the right decision in the moment.  

This level of confidence might help you listen to questions more fearlessly, read the room with a clear eye, and be ready for whatever comes your way. 

  • Pausing Helps You be Spontaneous or Flexible: Of course, adapting in the moment is often really uncomfortable, and many times you’ll want to resist it. Taking time in these situations is often about putting your gut reactions in check.  

You’ve been asked to jump ahead to a slide that’s coming up later in your deck. Rather than a knee-jerk, “I’ll cover that in a few minutes,” why not take a few seconds to consider the reason behind your resistance.  

If the only reason you have is your own preference for staying on track, you’ll know you’re better off jumping ahead. It will make you appear listener-focused and flexible.  

  • Pausing is a Sign of Strength: When you’re standing in front of a group and taking the time you need, it’s easy to assume that you are coming across as weak or incompetent. After all, your panicky self might think, “I literally don’t know what I’m going to do next.”  

Let yourself off the hook in these situations for two reasons. First, your sense of how long you’re pausing is greatly exaggerated. What feels like a minute is usually a few seconds. Second, taking your time to consider the best way forward is a sign of strength, not weakness.  

Pausing makes you look thoughtful, careful, and fully in control, even though it doesn’t always feel that way.    

The Quiet Before the Presentation

A final benefit of taking time occurs before your presentation even begins.  

As you know, it’s important to consider the needs and perspectives of your audience when you prepare your presentations. The frame should quickly provide context, a sense of purpose, and takeaways for your listeners.  

The thing to remember is that making the effort to adapt to your listeners to assume their perspective requires stepping back and slowing down just enough to clear your mind.  

The Turpin Method 

In our workshops, we ask participants to turn away from their laptops and PowerPoint slides and pick up a pen and paper during the first stage of preparation. This shift away from the keyboard is sometimes just enough to slow the process. This allows you time to look at things from your listeners’ point of view.  

The next time you’re planning and delivering a presentation, remember to give yourself the time you need to step back and think about what the situation requires. You’ll be more effective when you do.  

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