Think of your speaking style as having many of the same characteristics as music.
Here’s the best definition of music I’ve heard: Music is a combination of sounds and silences.
When you give presentations, speak to a group, or lead meetings, you can use the principles of tempo, melody, silence, and rhythm to help you engage your audience and express your ideas clearly.
Let’s focus on the silence – the pause. It’s an effective-speaking technique many people ignore. Yet, using pauses intentionally will actually help you strengthen the impact of the words you say.
One of my favorite piano players, Vladimir Horowitz, said this about music: I play the notes as well as anyone. It’s in the silence where I excel.
We pause naturally when we talk, often at the end of phrases in sentences. It shows we’re thinking and haven’t finished speaking. We use pauses to communicate emphasis in our words. We also use a pause to indicate the first element of a contrast. Say this phrase aloud: It’s not red, it’s green.
In public speaking, we often refer to a pause as a beat. A beat is slightly less than a second. That silence between your words gives your listener time to think about what you’ve said. And the beat gives your speaking a natural rhythm. Use a one or two beat pause when you:
Begin your presentation
Transition in time or place
List data, times, dates, places, figures
Make an important point
State a requirement
Ask a question
So, the next time you plan your presentation, think about more than what you want to say. Pay close attention to what you don’t say. And praise the pause.
Things we like.
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Things to ponder.
I like this Mark Twain quote: “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have time.” It’s easy to fill up space when you write. But communicating your ideas concisely takes some thinking. For inspiration, check out these true stories, told in one sentence.
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