But we often forget this interdependency. We sometimes allow our mouths to run ahead of our minds, shooting out words and ideas like a fire hose instead of a laser beam. Lagging behind, our minds are robbed of the opportunity to pick words with precision and prioritize them appropriately.
Speakers who put their mouths first ramble, repeat themselves, and frequently use filler words like "ah" and "um" and "you know." They commingle essential and nonessential details and fail the most important job of all--conveying a clear point.
To speak clearly and effectively, speakers need to flip the order of those functions, enabling their minds to go first, producing a rolling mental script their mouths can simply follow. This is what the difference sounds like:
Mouth Ahead of Mind: "So, I thought we could talk a little bit about the project and talk about what makes it a great idea on so many levels to make us do better overall, including ways to save money and be more efficient--like, cutting our costs--and help us to achieve awesome results every day for most but not all departments, whether you're here in New York or in L.A. Or at the satellite office in North Carolina. Or anywhere else."
Mind Ahead of Mouth: "I'd like to explain how the ABC Project will increase efficiency and productivity across the company."
How do you establish a mind-first, mouth-second order (short of hypnosis)? One tactic helps more than any other: Pauses.
You may already know that pauses are a useful tool to create drama and grab attention, but one benefit of pausing tops them all: When you pause, you create time for your mind to do its job of counseling your mouth (similar to how your mind counsels you to look both ways before crossing the street and think twice about that new investment).
Pausing also slows your pace, giving your mind even more time to formulate ideas and even steer your mouth away from filler words.
In my workshops, I'll often ask participants to deliver--without any preparation--tiny speeches describing their favorite parts of their jobs. Before they start, I have them imagine that they have all the time in the world and can pause as many times as necessary to express what they mean precisely.
You can almost see the gears turning in their heads as they pause very briefly and wait for their minds to instruct their mouths. The typical result: clear, direct answers with solid endings and no fillers.
If you're worried about how people respond to pauses, don't. An audience never says, "That was a great presentation--except for all the pauses." They were more likely riveted by your moments of silence and perhaps using the time themselves to let your ideas sink in.
If you're very concerned that someone else attending your meeting will rudely hijack your pause to insert their points, work on slowing your pace without significant pauses. (Remember also that you always have the right to resurface your point if someone has diminished or misappropriated it.)
So, how do you present with precision? It's not a job for your mouth alone. Slow down, embrace pauses, and let your mind and mouth deliver a powerful duet.