Party conference speeches from the party leaders are the big set pieces of the annual event. In many ways, nothing can be more important and stressful to the leaders but in other ways, it is a blank sheet of paper. They can say what they want, as long as they want, at the pace they want. In general, the audience in the room is supportive even if the wider audience is more judgemental.
As I write I have just finished watching John McDonnell address his party conference. Whatever your politics he is, nowadays, one of the great political communicators. We look for warmth, authority and animation in any speaker and he has it all. His delivery is well-paced, and he comes across as generous to others, a man of the people and inspiring. He is also good at media interviews. (Please remember I am commenting on style not politics.)
As ever with professional speakers who have a supportive audience, he makes the pauses count. And there are a lot of long pauses, not all of them dictated by applause.
[Last year, I blogged about another example of a conference speech which made very extensive use of the pause. This was the Conservative Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox. Whether you love or hate the Churchillian style, he certainly made his mark at the 2018 Conservative Party conference.]
Learning to pause is one of the key tricks to being an effective speaker. Most inexperienced presenters speak too fast and never pause.
We want the audience to hear every word and to have time to digest the whole sentence. Pauses play their part in making an argument digestible, but they are so much more than this. It takes confidence, guts even, but it is worth taking ‘the pause’ seriously. The dramatic effect can lift what you say from prosaic to inspiring.
Here is a short ‘how to’ video by an old-fashioned guy who never-the-less really knows what he is talking about. It is called the Power of the Pause.
There are so many relatively easy tricks to public speaking and yet the standard of professional presentations we are all exposed to continues to be woeful. If you want to upgrade your presentations, spend a few hours with one of The Media Coach crew and just see what we can do for you. Call us on +44 (0)20 7099 2212 to book yourself in.