Less is more

What leaders can learn from a pastor and a princess

3 minute read

 

Whatever your monarchist or republican leanings, it’s unlikely you missed the coverage of the Windsor Wedding on Saturday. I watched it all the way through with friends and family. The young kids and my elderly father were particularly gripped. I loved the flowers, the music, the fashion and the fact that it was a truly great show.

There are lessons to be learnt from this well-orchestrated spectacle. And two of the (American) stars of the show deserve a special mention: the new Duchess of Sussex and the pastor who gave an address.

These two people demonstrated clearly a key communication principle for anyone wanting to create impact in a busy world. Focus. Choose less to achieve more.

You’ve heard it before, but do you believe it? You’ve heard people say it, but do you put it into practice?

Less is more.

There was so much to feel good about with the appearance of the fantabulous Reverend Michael Curry.  His energetic, enthusiastic evangelism was one of the most talked-about parts of the day. At Caffeine we often help leaders perfect important keynote speeches and our communication-impact gurus on our team would have praised a lot about the preacher’s style. He was authentic and didn’t try to change his style for a cold English reserved audience. His eye contact, variable pace and general delivery was fantastic in many ways.

But. There is a ‘but’ here.

He failed to be perfect for me in one critical way. I’m sorry Reverend Curry, you’re terrific but, frankly, you just went on a tad too long.

I suspect there was a different kind of energy surge half way through as others like me got up to make a cuppa when they realised he was still going. Many thought the giggling royals were being challenged by his different style, but it might just be that he was going on too long when the audience wanted to ‘see these people get married’.

I also have no memory of what his actual point was. That isn’t really an issue as your style of delivery is more influential than the content (and as Maya Angelou says: They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.)

“Focus. Choose less to achieve more.”
However, Curry spoke for too long and his message was too complex. While my colleagues at Caffeine often help coach on delivery, I’m often particularly obsessed with helping get the content and the main messaging right. Curry had a God-given opportunity here to preach a strong message. He made a couple of good points – “When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well” – but a little bit of polishing and focus on the speech and it could have helped go even further in changing the world.

One of my favourite business thinkers and authors is Dan Pink. He also used to be a speechwriter for Al Gore and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to creating a good speech. The secret of great speeches according to him can be summarised in three points: ‘ brevity, levity and repetition.’ Let me say that again… brevity, levity, repetition. If you work out what you want to say and pare back to that message you can repeat it, in different and interesting ways and make sure it lands and that people get it. But you need levity to connect (tick for the pastor – his warm humour really cut-through) and brevity. Short and sharp cuts thorough. Less = more. In fairness, Reverend Curry did repeat the word ‘love.’ Fifty-Eight Times. A great drinking game could be created from this…

“At Caffeine we often help leaders perfect important keynote speeches and our communication-impact gurus on our team would have praised a lot about the preacher’s style.”
 Less is more is a substance point when it comes to public speaking. For me, it’s also a style point; demonstrated beautifully with some of the fashion choices on the day. Meghan Markle’s gloriously simple dress for example. The only thing the press could comment on really (apart from it being from a female and British designer, both important political points) was the detail in the veil – so every newspaper across the world featured a point which was respectful of the Commonwealth (for those who missed this detail, the veil had flora from all 50+ countries in the Commonwealth stitched into it). And it was a great example of a style philosophy of choosing clothes which make you look good so that people say, ‘she looks beautiful’ rather than ‘beautiful dress’. The less is more design of the dress meant that the most important part of the outfit was highlighted – her smile and her eyes, both beautiful and both helping communicate that she was happy and confident. Yes, the cynics will say she’s an actress, so she may have been playing a part, but she played it well and the ‘less is more’ choices she made allowed her to communicate more strongly.

So, lessons from both the pastor and the princess. Be yourself. And edit, curate, choose the most important things, prioritise, focus and in preparation, always mutter that mantra ‘less is more’. Start with less and you will communicate more. Because less is more in a dress and less is more in an address.

Sophie Devonshire

Sophie Devonshire

Experienced business leader, entrepreneur & brand specialist who works with senior leaders to grow businesses at pace and with a clear sense of purpose. Author of Superfast: Lead at Speed published by John Murray Press, the #1 bestseller in Change Management books on Amazon.
Sophie Devonshire

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