80/20 Rule for Public Speaking

By on October 4, 2016

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, 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts, and 80% of the world’s beer is consumed by 20% of the people.

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.

Preparation is key! Rehearsal under performance-like pressure is the only scientifically proven way to excel.

And if you think rehearsing makes you stiff, think again. Rehearsal enables spontaneity.

For the first 2016 debate, Clinton prepped. Trump–not so much.

It’s true that practice makes perfect. But it’s truer that perfect practice makes for perfect performance. 80% of your success depends on what you do before the speech or presentation. 20% is delivery.

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