March 17, 2021

Voice of the Speaker: Power of the Pause

Strictly Speaking , Public Speaking , Resources

For speeches and presentations, the voice is a potentially powerful asset. We’re publishing a series of excerpts on how to use your voice to best advantage, from Reid Buckley’s book "Strictly Speaking."

"Learn to relish the silence. Become comfortable with it. It’s the amateur who hurries."

– Reid Buckley writing about the voice in "Strictly Speaking"

Few sounds produce such extraordinary effect as that of the sudden cessation of sound, dropping on an audience like perfect silence at the base of a waterfall.

As though the spigot has been turned off.

It can occur between syllables, in the midst of a phrase, after a colon or full stop, between paragraphs, at the conclusion of a dramatic passage, or at the commencement of a new line of reasoning.

Pause. Stop.

Permit the caesura in the flow of the talk to sink on the audience until silence establishes a perfect reign, ruptured only by the cough of someone way back in the fortieth row or rattling in the throat of someone in the box seats. The rest of the audience is held in suspense.

Then resume.

Learn to relish the silence. Become comfortable with it. It's the amateur who hurries. The amateur who runs through applause, through laughter, through the dramatic potential of what he has to say. This is a question of timing—timing in the delivery of your text.

What you say must be apportioned to the audience, here and there temporarily denied to the audience. Suspense is what holds people in their seats. What is coming next? When will the speaker let drop the other shoe, the last syllable? What [grand] [funny] [foreboding] [terrible] thing is he about to enunciate?

Artful use of silence is essential to the speaker's craft.

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