Recently at a Voice and Presentation Skills workshop I was holding in Toronto, Canada, a man stood to give a brief presentation and for the next 3 minutes we were bombarded by constant verbiage. Loud, fast, in-your-face words which were difficult to assimilate because of the non-stop delivery of this particular ‘professional’ speaker.
In teaching color – the life, the animation, the emotion one expresses in speaking – I love when we get to the pause. Truly, one of the most important components in dynamic speech, the pause allows the listener to regroup, it allows the speaker to breathe and to think (although ever so quickly), and it allows for a moment of silence, if only for a nano-second.
To be assaulted with endless words is exhausting, certainly for you the speaker, but more importantly for your audience. You don’t want to tire your listeners: you want to enervate them, to educate them, to motivate them, and to inspire them. A bombardment of sound is not any of these things. It is noise.
If your goal is to become a dynamic speaker, be it professionally or for your job or because you’ve been elected president of your weekly business referral group, learning to speak to your audience and not at them means that you will allow yourself to pause and you will not give a ‘memorized performance.’
In public speaking you are either giving a speech or a presentation. Do you know the difference? Speeches are more common at funerals, weddings, and inaugurations. Speeches will be read; however, those who are good at giving speeches don’t sound like they are reading. Presentations, on the other hand, tend to be longer, usually incorporate visual aids, and should never be read or memorized. Whether a speech or a presentation, the idea is to sound like you are talking to someone in your living room. And, just as you would pause in the conversation in your living room, so too, should you pause during the presentation or speech.
Try this exercise. Say the following sentence and briefly pause where you see the carat or inverted v.
I couldn’t possibly ^ do that.
Now this time say the sentence and pause after the word I (not two pauses, just the one). If you are expressive in speaking, you will find that the pause works in either case; however, you can actually pause after any of those words. You may have found that you shook your head in a negative manner as you said the sentence or possibly glided on the word I when you paused after that pronoun.
With good training, you will discover that you can pause almost anywhere in any sentence if you have any color, any life in your delivery – if you speak in a monotone, however, the pause doesn’t work.
Pausing is not rhythmic; for example, you don’t want to pause after every 3 or 4 words, nor should you pause after every sentence. Pausing is flexible; however, it should never be overdone. My mother-in-law, a very intelligent woman, is a perfect example of the overdone pause and I think it happens because she is so deep in thought. Listening to her tell a story is a most lengthy and cumbersome process and it is very difficult to stay focused on what she is trying to say.
We are also under the mistaken belief that if we are saying or reading a very long sentence with no punctuation, we are not allowed to pause. I disagree. Just as there is a writer’s license, so too there is a speaker’s license. You can add commas, take out commas, and even ignore a period at the end of a sentence if you so choose. The secret is to be yourself. If you can treat your audience as if you were having a conversation, you will speak to your audience as if you were having a conversation; and, from my experience, I have found that most people, in normal conversation, pause. It’s natural; it’s normal; it’s rewarding.
So the next time you stand to speak to an audience, try pausing. You will be surprised at how much more control you will have over your presentation or your speech if you will allow yourself the power of the pause…
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group seminars in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Watch Nancy at Voice Dynamic as she discusses your Least Developed Tool.