Unleashing Your Communication & Performance Potential




Empower Your Vocal Message with Silence



Last Month’s e-newsletter gave you specific ways you can drive out non-words from your interpersonal communications and group presentations. I suggested that every time you feel a non-word about to break forth, to replace it with a pause. “That’s easier said than done.” You might have thought. Now let’s look closer that this ‘Pause’ and find out why we should add that to our speaker’s tool kit and how we can use it effectively.


All pauses are not created equal. Sometimes we pause when we don’t want to. By understanding pauses, we will take a major step in mastering this tool.

The Forgetful Pause – This happens when your mind goes blank in the middle of a presentation. This is usually caused when you lose your focus such as when you are distracted.

The Embarrassed Pause – When you say something you wish you could take back, it short circuits your thinking mechanism because your feelings are at war with the words you just said. This type of pause can also be called the “blushing pause.”

The Fearful Pause – Uncontrolled nervousness will cause you to lose confidence in yourself and your command of the occasion and audience. This will disrupt the flow of your talk, hinder the rhythm, cadence, and timing of your speech, leading to pauses (as well as non-words) in all the wrong places.

The Deliberate Pause – This is the type of pause we want. When deliberately done with a good sense of timing, such a pause will pull in your listeners and make people feel connected to the ongoing drama you are describing in your speech.

One of the best descriptions of the deliberate pause that I have come across was in a blog called “Couragetostutter.net, written by Kevin O’Neill:

“One of the most helpful techniques I learned on my path to more fluent speech is the deliberate pause. By “deliberate pause” I mean intentionally taking a break in speech while staying relaxed, being present, and perhaps taking a breath (http://couragetostutter.net/wp/2010/09/06/the-art-of-the-pause/).


Four Benefits of the Deliberate Pause

  1. The deliberate pause, properly done, allows the audience to keep pace with your message. It allows the listeners time to mentally digest what you are saying. This makes for more attentive listeners.
  2. The deliberate pause also allows you to control the pace of the unfolding story. You are the conductor; your words are the musical instruments of the orchestra of speech. The pause is the silence that is an essential part of the symphony.
  3. The deliberate pause can be effective as part of your transitions in the speech. Properly used, a deliberate pause can be a very effective preamble to a transition statement.
  4. As has been mentioned before, the pause is a very effective replacement for non-words, giving you a sense of command of the presentation and giving the audience confidence in you as a knowledgeable presenter.


How Does One Learn to Pause Effectively?

Try my “Four F” technique.

  1. Focus – Focus on your message and the audience, not on yourself.
  2. Flow – Your focus allows your words to flow fluently.
  3. Feel – “Feel” the story or message as you are sharing it with the audience members. Speak with emotion. When you feel the message, it will become easier to know where in the speech you should pause.
  4. Freeze – When you sense that a pause will be appropriate at any point of your message, go with your gut instinct and “freeze” those moments in time. In other words, pause deliberately.

Now all you have to do is practice the Four F technique every time you speak. As someone said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.



Your message is like a meal. Sometimes you gulp it down, fast food style – like very rapid speaking. Sometimes you chew it slowly – like slow, deliberate speech. Sometimes, you simply savor its delicious aromas -- like a deliberate pause.

Here’s a Chance to Win a Prize by Exercising Your Art of the Pause

Given below is the closing of the speech that General Douglas MacArthur delivered as his farewell address to the cadets at West Point in 1962. It is one of the great speeches of the 20th century. Review this ending and insert in the script a little p for a small pause and a large P for a longer pause. You must show exactly where in the script the pauses should be. E-mail the text along with your pause markings to drdilip@centralpenn.edu by August 27. The first three entries will receive Dr. Dilip’s popular recording, “The Speaker’s Desiderata,” and the winning entry will receive a DVD of Dr. Dilip’s signature keynote speech, The Path of the Genie.


“In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory always I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.

I bid you farewell.”

- General Douglas McArthur

Coming up in the September e-Newsletter: Winning at Speaking with the Mind.



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(Name the speaker)

  1. This speaker was a pioneer fighter for independence from colonial rule and was the first prime minister of his Island nation after independence was granted by Great Britain in 1948. He is called the Father of his nation. He revitalized the agricultural industry and his leadership put his newly independent nation on firm footing. He declined a knighthood from England but remained in cordial terms. He delivered this speech over the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, England in January 1951. “We in the east, throughout long periods of struggle towards the light, have learned the bitter lessons of suspicion and fear, of greed and aggrandizement, of lust for power and exploitation of the weak, and we are convinced that only through clearer knowledge of the fundamental spiritual values of existence can international understanding be reached.”
  2. This speech is the most quoted speech in US history. It is also one of the shortest. The exact wording of the speech is not known as the five original copies that still exist all differ slightly and differ from contemporary newspaper texts. The speech was delivered at the dedication of a national cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the battle of Gettysburg. “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
  3. This speech, in my opinion, is this leader’s supreme speech. It reveals this speaker at his most brilliant, most inspirational, and his most noble self. It was his second inaugural address given a few weeks before he was assassinated. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in: to bind up the nations wounds; to care for him show shall have borne the battle, and his widow, and his orphan, and to achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and all nations.”
  4. This speech was given during World War II, shortly after the withdrawal of British forces from Dunkirk, France. It has been said that this man, a master rhetorician, used the power of the English language to march against the armies of Nazi Germany. His eloquence and indomitable will steeled the British people and gave them the will to fight on, even when it felt hopeless. “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be – we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Determine the name of the speaker for the above questions, and then see the answers in right hand column! Great Historic Speeches Part III will appear in the August newsletter!


Dr. Dilip Abayasekara
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Quote to
Think About

“The pause is not something that is apart from speech it is a part of speech.”

-Dilip Abayasekara


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Public Speaking with Power, Passion, and Purpose by Dilip R. Abayasekara and Kathiravan Pethi.

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