The Power of the Pause in Public Speaking

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The pregnant pause lengthens forever

This was the title of the tribute by T.K Arun in the Economic Times. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was known for his oratory as well as his pauses.

In this context, I am reminded of the song ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel.  Silence does have a sound. And the effective use of silence in communication, often speaks louder than words.

As a public speaker, you have to incorporate pauses at the right places, in the right moments -to create your own rhythm & connect with your audience. Pauses help your audience understand & absorb your message. They add meaning & power to your words.

THE PREGNANT|DRAMATIC PAUSE-This pause often suggests more than what is expressed in words. It is pregnant with unexpected possibilities- usually longer than the other pauses. It adds a dramatic impact to what you are about to say. It is often used in comedy, suspense and by experienced & polished speakers to heighten anticipation in the listener.

THE MEANINGFUL PAUSE – It is the most essential pause in  communication & is meant for clarity. The meaningful pause is used between phrases that express complete ideas. It helps your audience make meaning of & absorb your message. Meaningful pauses are the commas & full-stops of spoken communication.

THE EMOTIONAL PAUSE- It is used for emotional quality. Motivational speakers & leaders use this pause effectively in similar sounding, repetitive phrases, to arouse emotions in the audience.

THE PHYSIOLOGICAL PAUSE -This is the pause, you need to replenish your breath. However, as a speaker you cannot pause at random to breathe in, as it will affect the meaning & impact of your message. You have to co-ordinate your physiological pause with the above pauses. The best way to master your pauses is to learn & develop efficient breathing. Breath training helps you when you have to speak long phrases and deliver a powerful & emotional message.

The most precious things in speech are pauses -Ralph Richardson, British Actor.

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