Vocal impact: tempo, rhythm, and the pregnant pause

Another easy way to add impact to your presentation is to employ a technique that storytellers, comedians, and news anchors have been using for eons:  the pregnant pause.  Paul Harvey’s my favorite demigod at this, but we don’t need to have been broadcasting for 60 years to add it to our bag of tricks.

To start, just become consciously aware of your tempo, or pace of your delivery.  Speak too quickly and you’ll sound frenetic or nervous; too slowly and you’ll put ’em to sleep.  Either way, having an awareness of how you sound to someone else is a step toward being a pro.

And just like a drummer sets the pace (tempo) of the tune, they also set forth emphases that become recognizable… that’s how you recognize the beat as rock, hip hop, or bossa nova.  This ‘rhythm’ element isn’t something you’re going to apply to a whole business presentation, but there may be elements – such as the three key points that you repeat – that you emphasize in a rhythmic way.  Da da da da DA da DA da DA! I don’t suggest manufacturing something, but rather just making it a point to consciously avoid the monotone and lean toward the drama already inherent in how the words flow.

Finally, the pregnant pause is simply a pause or hesitation that heightens the tension or creates anticipation…     …and then releases to deliver optimum impact to what is said right after the pause.  The reason this is so powerful is simple.  Our sensory systems tend to most readily pick up changes, differences, or disruption.  Someone in your audience who’s only half-listening is most likely to be drawn back to giving you their attention when something interrupts their zoning out.  Da da da da DA da DA…   …da DA!

Command attention.  Master the pregnant pause.

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