When we write, we use commas and periods and paragraphs and such. Readers are GUIDED from sentence to sentence as we take the time to separate our thoughts structurally. Run-on sentences miss the point. Inappropriate or inconsistent spacing and lengthy paragraphs become challenges. All of these errors can leave our readers to wander into unrelated thoughts or, worse yet, dismiss our communication altogether.
Our speech requires the same CARE as a well-written message. We differentiate the length of the pause based on the punctuation. A period gets a longer pause, for example than a comma. We use the pause to CONNECT with the listener. We let them know where we are in our communication by the amount of REST we use. We create what my good friend, and Executive Coach, @Lisa Parker, refers to as white SPACE. Think about the written page…the only reason we can even read the words is that there is white space around the letters. That must also stand TRUE of our speech—in order for people to really GET what we are saying, they have to be given space (the pause) to DIGEST.
Pausing is a speaking skill that will CHANGE the way you sound immediately.
It takes two very specific tactics: Attention and Intention.
Let’s start with ATTENTION.
Attention is about SELF-awareness. Are you listening to yourself while you are speaking? Do you know what words need extra EMPHASIS? Are you pausing right after them to be sure that your audience hears exactly what you want them to hear? If you give YOURSELF attention, there is a very good chance that your listeners will give it to you, TOO.
INTENTION is closely connected to attention. What is the direction you want your voice to move in? Towards a person you are facing or someone in the back of the room? Does your voice need to reach someone on the other side of a conference call or is there so much background noise that there is a chance you can’t be heard at all? Does your sense of awareness of these things, help you set your intention when you speak? And to take that question one notch higher, do you have the primary intention to be heard? We limit the results of our communication if we come out of the gate without the desire for others to hear us. Start there: “I want to be HEARD!” Then, you can get more nuanced with your intention.
Which brings me back to the Power of the Pause.
When we pause, we have time to pay attention to ourselves and act with Intention.
When we pause, we can refocus if we get off track.
When we pause, we speak with greater CONVICTION.
And guess what else happens when we pause? We BREATHE. Breathing properly with the diaphragm does very important things to our speech:
- First, it allows our voice to be properly supported;
- Second, it taps into CALMING sensors which helps with our nerves;
- And third, it gets oxygen to the brain which gets our ideas to transfer quickly and SMOOTHLY into our communication.
So, if you are looking to incorporate one or more of the skills I’ve mentioned into your public speaking, start with the Power of the Pause. Not only will you feel more CONFIDENT, but you will find that OTHERS interrupt you less and stay engaged MORE.