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When The Pause Becomes Sing-Song in Public Speaking

Nancy Daniels, Voice Coach


F
or all my talk, my articles, and the advice I give about the wonderful, marvelous pause in public speaking, a difficulty for some is that it can become rhythmic, taking on a sing-song effect. The one thing you never want from the pause is for your audience to know in advance when it is coming.


Sing-song means that you have a rhythm in your speech which is recognizable in that you break or pause after a certain number of words while speaking. Usually the pause occurs after every 4-5 words. The problem with sing-song is two-fold: it is boring and it becomes anticipated. In either case, it will put your audience to sleep.

While not common among great public speakers, I had an opportunity to hear a sing-song delivery from an older man who was quite renowned in the public speaking circuit. After 20 minutes listening to this individual, I zoned out. What brings the invitations for this man to speak, however, is not his abilities at the lectern but the books he is selling in the back of the room.

Sing-song is a rhythm in your speech in which you pause after every 4-5 words.
Say the following sentence pausing after each phrase in bold.

The crippled old man (pause) walked with a cane (pause) and was pushed off the curb (pause) during the riot.

This above example could be said without a pause or maybe with 1 pause but, by no means, should there be 3 pauses during those 17 words!

If you are pausing too often or if you have been
The one thing you never want from the pause is for your audience to know in advance when it is coming.
told that you speak in sing-song, try the sentence below first with 1 pause and then try it with no pauses.

The crippled old man walked with a cane (pause) and was pushed off the curb during the riot.

No Pause

The crippled old man walked with a cane and was pushed off the curb during the riot.

With practice, you should be able to learn to pause only when you need it or for effect. The pause is wonderful for taking a quick breath, thereby supplementing your air supply, for changing topics, and for briefly regrouping your thoughts. Too many pauses, however, is monotonous. If you are not sure whether you are making progress by limiting your pauses, try recording yourself when you speak and studying the playback.
The pause is wonderful for taking a quick breath. Too many pauses, however, is monotonous.

Remember, too many pauses is monotonous. Stop the sing-song delivery and start talking to your audience and not at them.




International Speaker and Voice Specialist, Nancy Daniels, has been involved in voice training since 1977. A graduate of Gettysburg College with a BA in music, she discovered the techniques for improving the sound of the speaking voice while in graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to her guest speaking engagements, Nancy offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice training and public speaking skills throughout the United States and Canada. For those are unable to work with her directly, there is Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on voice training, future workshops, and Voicing It!, visit her Voice Dynamic website. http://www.voicedynamic.com



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