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Best Public Speakers: Studying Yvon Chouinard's Communication Skills

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

We included Yvon Chouinard on our "Best Public Speakers" list because of his less is more approach, use of the pause, and casual composure.

In 1973, Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia, a climbing equipment and clothing company. He is a self-described "reluctant businessman, climber, and activist" which he demonstrated in 2022 when he donated 100% of his shares in the 3 billion dollar company to help fight climate change.

by Kat Evans and Madina Behori

We reviewed Chouinard 's interview with the Commonwealth Club of California. During the interview, he shares the many stories that changed his philosophy over the years, such as his own near-death experience during an avalanche and the near-death of his company.

Chouinard's greatest communication skills:

  1. Less is More: With Chouinard, less is more. He tells his stories with minimal and easily understandable words while giving clear and concise examples. This makes him appear more humble, down to earth, and relatable.

  2. Use of Pause: Chouinard 's use of the pause is longer than most; he makes his audience wait for the punchline of nearly every sentence. What this does is give the audience time to absorb every detail. When done periodically, a 3-scond pause emphasizes your point while a 9-second pause invites the audience to speak.

  3. Casual Composure: Chouinard lives up to his 'unlikely businessman' persona through humorous and cheeky language, using words like 'stupid', 'loser,' and 'dirtbag'. This coming from someone of his stature is so unexpected that it can increase his level of intrigue.

What Chouinard could do to improve his communication skills:

  1. Eye Contact: Chouinard can be seen looking down or scanning the room while giving some of his responses. By doing this, he appears detached from his audience. To maintain this connection, we recommend that he look at a section of the audience through an entire thought and then address a new section for his next one.

  2. Fillers: One of the advantages of a slower pace is that you have more time to think about what you want to say. However, you also have more time for fillers -- those short, meaningless words or phrases -- to clutter the message. This is what happens with Chouinard's use of the fillers "um" and "you know". Check out this post for strategies on how to eliminate fillers.

  3. Gestures: Chouinard uses almost no gestures in his 80 -minute talk. Since his vocal style is more relaxed, the use of intentional gestures could infuse his talk with more energy and excitement. Some gestures we recommend are the pincer, the key point, and the karate chop.


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