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[Speaking-Out-Loud May 2015] Tips & tricks to experience the magic of pause power
May 08, 2015

Welcome to the May Issue of Speaking-Out-Loud's newsletter to help you effectively "talk your walk".

In this Issue

Effective pauses

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Making sense of silence in speech

This goes out to everybody who find themselves gabbling, talking far too quickly for anybody listening to understand.


She talked on and on and only ever paused long enough to take a breath to keep talking on, and on. Her message became a meaningless blur. She left no room for anybody to respond with a nod or a smile, let alone a word.

Can you hear her?

And she complained bitterly that no one listened to anything she said.

The function of punctuation in print on paper or in text on a screen

When we read words are thankfully divided into digestible chunks by punctuation. A full stop or a period, for example, signals the end of a sentence. It's a pause - a stopping point. An idea has ended and that space indicated by the full stop, allows us time to make sense of what has gone before another, in a new sentence, is introduced.

The same principle applies to a comma, semi colon, or colon. These all denote pauses too. Each plays a special role; helping us to decode and understand the words we are reading.

Punctuation in speech

The problem many people have with spoken speech is that they forget to include those signals. Their speech is a rushing river of words; rapidly becoming too difficult to listen to. The only stops they make are dictated by survival; the need to breathe.

Inevitably, those pauses occur in the wrong places and the message they want to get across is further compromised.

Using a system to help

When I was teaching I met lots of "rush and gushers". Once they opened their mouths the race was on to get out everything they had to say before they ran out of breath or, lost their nerve.

To help them to pause I introduced a counting system, a sort of "oral" punctuation to be said silently in their minds. Often I marked up their text and sometimes, if needed, called it out when they were practicing with me.

It went like this:

  • For a full stop or period, count 1,2
  • For a comma, count 1
  • For a semi-colon, count 1
  • For a colon, count 1,2
  • Between the end of one paragraph and the start of the next count 1, 2, 3

If you have a tendency to rush and only stop to gasp in a breath when you absolutely have to, do try it.

Mark your speech notes using different colored highlighters to show the varying pauses e.g. blue for 1, yellow for 1,2 and pink for 1,2,3.

As you practice either count the pauses in your mind or out loud.

Use the full stop pause to take a breath.

I promise you you'll hear a difference. Your speech and more importantly, your message will be clearer; easier for the audience to understand.

Click the link if you'd like more on using pauses effectively. The page has exercises and extracts to practice them with; one from Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, one from Charles Dicken's book "David Copperfield" and a Shakespearean sonnet.

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What's new

A round up of pages, either revamped with added information or new on the site.

  • Public speaking games. If you teach or lead a public speaking class, these are fun-filled fear busters. Your students will gain skills and confidence while enjoying themselves!
  • Goodbye public speaking fears - a free 7-part e-course of tips and strategies to stand tall and speak with pride. My gift to you!
  • Impromptu speaking topics. Dozens of ideas with on going links to more, including templates to help structure your speech.

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And now some inspiration from TED ...

The top 20 TED Talks. How many have you watched?

I counted three - Amy Cuddy on body language, Susan Cain on introversion and Jill Bolte Taylor on her stroke. They are all extraordinary in their own ways. I totally recommend them.

I have 17 more to watch!

Comment, share & connect

If you've got comments, feedback or questions you're most welcome to contact me through my about me page.

If you liked this issue of Speaking-Out-Loud, please feel free to send it on to any friends or family. The site url to forward so they can subscribe is Speaking-Out-Loud.

And I'd love to see you on's face book page too.

Until next time,
Happy speaking,


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