Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who noticed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people, and that 20% of the peapods in his garden produced 80% of the peas.  He invented the 80/20 rule, more formally known as the Pareto Principle.

It’s now a common rule of thumb that many real systems have approximately this intermediate imbalance:  80% of profits come from 20% of customers, and 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.

So how does the Pareto Principle work in public speaking?  What is the magic 20% that accounts for 80% of your speaking success?

The strategic intent of your presentation?

The information you provide?

The elegance of your visual aids?

The stories you tell?

I would say “none of the above,” despite their relative importance.  Instead, I believe it’s how you come across, how you connect authentically with an audience.

As Emerson said, “Who you are speaks so loudly that no one can hear what you’re saying.”

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For more tips, hints, and advice, visit my column Words@Work at Inc.com.

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