THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Forget info: It's all about being connected

I give a lot of speeches, mostly telling people how to manage Generation Y, and how to manage their careers so they're not jealous of Generation Y. My charm, I think, is that I don't prepare a speech. I never know, exactly, what I'll say when I stand up. It works for me– no one ever says I'm boring.

What they say instead is that I talk fast. When they are being nice, people say, "You're so East Coast" or "You sure have a lot of information." When they are not being nice, people say, "Penelope lacks polish."

The lack of polish thing sort of bugs me, so I get a lot of coaching.

The first time I got coaching as a speaker, it was from Lindy Amos, at TAI, a company specializing in "leadership development." She totally changed how I approached speaking. She taught me that it's not about the information you spew so much as about the connections you make.

I love the crazy things I've had to do at TAI– like give a sermon as if I were a Southern preacher and give a speech about how much I did not have time to be interrupting my day to give a speech.

Last time I met with her, she told me to pause.

"What?" I said.

"Pause," she said.

Lindy says that the impact of what I'm saying arrives during the pauses. I realize that I don't pause when I'm speechmaking because I'm scared of what will happen in the pause. And not just during joke time.

If I have a big idea, it sounds big when I pause. If it's stupid, the pause gives someone a chance to really notice how stupid the idea is. But the excitement of hearing a big idea is nice, and people may miss it if I don't pause.

During my own pause, I am horrified by the analogies— how, really, you don't know how you're doing with anything until you slow down to listen and notice.

I do a lot of swing dancing. With fast music, you can hide that you have no style. You just do technique to keep up with the music. The best moves come out when the music slows down and you can't hide behind speed.

The same is true of sex, isn't it? Bad technique always comes with a fast pace.

And what about the pace of a career? I write all the time about how important it is to pause.

We learn about ourselves, and recalibrate our paths when we pause. That month you spend on the sofa, collecting an unemployment check and eating Cheetos between movies is not wasted time. It's your pause. You are thinking. And the pause keeps you on course.

What I love about Lindy is that she takes what I know is definitely true and shows me that I'm not living up to that. I am scared to have a pause. I know that's where the impact happens, and I know that the best speakers are the ones who take risks.

You would think that I take risks all the time. I mean I go to employee motivation seminars and tell everyone to job hop. But the risk isn't in one's content. The risk is in the pause, where I can tell how my audience is connecting with the content, or not.

It's a hard lesson. But this lesson is just like all the times that Lindy has changed my speaking style: I connect better everywhere. Not just in my speeches.