Heard a preacher today who evoked memories of a standard Southern Baptist hell-fire-brimstone sort. If I read what he had to say, I’d probably be compelled to read every word. I found listening to be painful, and it appears I was not alone.After a very personal and clear introduction along the “I’m glad to be here and here’s why…” variety, he launched in to a rather scripted message that was on a completely different level communication-wise. He looked at his audience (good!). He had almost no non-words (great!). His diction and pace were clear (wonderful!). And he shouted the entire time (oops). If I hadn’t heard him give his introduction, I would have thought that was how he talks. I know he was capable on normal speech, he just didn’t use it. It was like he turned the ON switch to “preacher” mode and off he went. He essentially had two volumes: Shout and off. It makes for very difficult listening.To back up how important every word was, he used emphatic gestures. On every word. He shook his fist. He pointed his finger. On every word. His pauses were not for emphasis but to catch his breath. And off he went again.IT WAS ALMOST AS IF HE DIDN’T ALLOW THE AUDIENCE TO CAPTURE ANYTHING FROM HIS MESSAGE HE JUST WENT ON TO THE NEXT THING THE NEXT THING WAS GIVEN AT EXACTLY THE SAME LEVEL IT MADE IT VERY DIFFICULT TO KNOW WHAT TO FOCUS ON MOST FOLKS COULDN’T KEEP UP I KNOW I COULDN’TPauses are punctuation. Inflection puts emotion into the spoken word. Both allow the listener to connect to what is being said. The lack of either makes it nearly impossible to sustain attention long-term. I heard a few comments like, “he really started well” and “he lost me after a little bit“. The reason was NOT his content. His audience just couldn’t keep up, and they couldn’t even really articulate why.As I usually do when listening to a speaker, I looked around at the audience about 2/3 of the way in. Everyone was transfixed. No one was sleeping (he was too loud) but almost no one really was paying attention, either. It was just too much to take in.Loud only draws attention in the context of soft. Fast is only effective if there is also slow. Any change draws attention. Lack of it makes everything sound the same.
IF YOU EMPHASIZE EVERYTHING, YOU EMPHASIZE NOTHING.