Good presenters modulate their intonation to make an impact and to maintain interest. The two simplest ways to make a presentation sound more interesting and easier to understand are by stressing keywords and by pausing. Pausing after key points gives the audience time to take in and react to what you have said, which greatly increases the chances of it being memorable.
Pauses are also effective after rhetorical questions. In a conversation, we pause after asking a question to give someone time to answer, and by so doing we signal that we value what they have to say. Similarly, in a presentation, pausing after a rhetorical question gives the impression that we care about how the audience might respond, it gives them time to absorb and consider the point and increases the impact of what we say.
In this activity below, you’ll have the chance to see how the former US President Obama used the power of pausing in the first major speech he gave after leaving office.
- Watch the short extract from the speech former US President gave to an audience of college students in Illinois.
- Listen carefully and mark the longer pauses he makes – there are 12 – by clicking on the text below the video.
- Note that this activity works best using a desktop rather than a mobile browser. 🙁
Watch the complete speech here: https://youtu.be/sHAkDTlv8fA
Now that you have explored how an experienced public speaker uses his voice, use the extract to practice pausing for effect.