When the Pause Becomes Sing-Song in Public Speaking

Posted on Posted in Public Speaking

For 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.)

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 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 in order to supplement 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.

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

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels provides private, group and corporate training throughout the United States and Canada as well as Voicing It!, the first video training program on voice improvement and presentation skills. Discover your real voice at Voice Dynamic.