Vocals 101: The Importance of Pausing

August 17, 2020

Skill Development

Vocals 101: The Importance of Pausing

None of us want to sound monotone, so why do so many people and what can we do differently to not be one of them?

STEP 1: Give your talk room to breathe:

One of the most common issues with presentations is people try to do too much, and the result is that they have to speak too quickly and cannot pause.

Pausing is not just about giving space between sentences and between ideas, it is also critical because it allows the speaker to segment individual sentences into their requisite parts. Without this segmentation, the audio becomes just a stream of information that the audience cannot understand. Imagine a text with no punctuation, that is what speaking without adequate pauses would look like visually.

How can I get better at it?

The visual here illustrates the difference between written and spoken text. The text on the left is a regular paragraph and appears as it would be written. The text on the right is the same, but it has been parsed into its different components, a process I refer to as annotating your script. If you were to carefully read the text on the left, you would naturally parse out the different pieces of the list in the middle in order to understand it. But if I read aloud the text on the left, you would be lost as I would move through it a steady pace.

However, If I read you the text on the right, I would naturally segment the paragraph into all of its different parts with pausing and emphasis differentiating each line. It takes a bit longer, but now we are on our way to creating a more dynamic vocal stream for our audience.

How to better prepare for your next talk:

Before you practice a script for your next presentation, parse it out to resemble the one on the right. Then, as you rehearse it, you will be learning the proper clustering that will help you pause in the appropriate places that will allow your reader to hear the different components of each sentence.

When we speak extemporaneously, we do this naturally, but if we memorize a text, too often we memorize and speak the text on the left. The result is a monotone and mono-pace vocal stream that quickly becomes relatively incomprehensible for the average audience.

The next step is about then layering in shifts in pitch, volume and speed, but we’ll save talking about those for another day.

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