I recently worked with a woman who spoke at 100 mph and seldom paused to take a breath – even in normal conversation. Most people, yes, the majority of the population, pause while talking to friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances and even the clerk in the grocery store. Unfortunately, the one time the pause is often missing is when addressing an audience.
The pause is invaluable for several reasons:
1. It allows you to take a breath, thereby supplementing your air supply, instead of waiting until you are totally spent of oxygen. Remember, without air, there is no voice.
2. It gives you more control over what is coming out of your mouth, allowing you to better organize your thoughts. (American Vice President Joe Biden would do well to heed this advice.)
3. It also allows your audience to categorize your words.
4. It helps relax your body. Lack of air stresses the body which in turn increases your nervousness. Often this breathlessness makes you speak faster and faster as the pitch of your voice continues to rise uncontrollably.
The interesting thing about the pause is that you can do it almost anywhere in a sentence. Next time you are in conversation, take note of when you pause. [Even better? Record yourself while talking to friends and/or family.] You will probably notice that you pause to take a breath in the midst of your sentences. Sadly, many who are addressing an audience wrongly believe that they are not allowed to breathe until they come to some form of punctuation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just as there is a writer’s license, so too is there a speaker’s license which means you can breathe almost anywhere in any sentence.
The two times I suggest you do not pause are when you say your first and last name and when you say the name of your business if it is more than one word. For example, let’s say your name is Joe Smith. You would not say Joe- pause – Smith. It is unnatural and unnecessary.
Additionally, you do not want to pause in rhythm; i.e. pausing after every 4th word. When this happens your voice becomes sing-song. Certainly one of the best means of putting your audience to sleep is to lull their ears with an anticipated rhythm.
Often neglected, the pause is one of the most valuable things you should do when delivering a speech or presentation. If you treat your audience like you were having a conversation in your living room, you will find it that much easier to pause naturally. I guarantee that your body will thank you for that briefest moment of silence.
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The Voice Lady, Nancy Daniels, offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. To get started improving your presentation skills, click Voice Training and Presentation Skills for Nancy’s free ebook.
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