Archive for the ‘Voice’ Category

Permit Audience to Use Silence Effectively (PAUSE)

We often hear well-intentioned encouragement “use more pauses” and “pause longer” and the compliment “I really liked your use of pauses!”

As I demonstrate in my workshops, pausing more and longer is not enough, “I always… enjoy the… aroma of… a beautiful spring… day. It makes me… feel as fresh… as a… daisy!” By this time, participants are smiling and I ask, “What’s wrong? I paused more. I paused longer. What is the problem?”

Most people are challenged to describe what wasn’t working for them as they listened to me. They fidget, look at each other, smile, look at me until someone hesitates at an answer, “It seemed… uh… off, somehow. It didn’t flow. Your words didn’t match. You paused at the wrong time. It wasn’t natural.”

If we race through a speech, it doesn’t work. The audience can’t keep up. If we plod through a speech, it doesn’t work. The audience drifts off. If we pause after the “wrong” word, it confuses the audience. Too long or too short, still not right. How do we get it “right?”

There is no “right” in the sense of “right and wrong” or “correct and incorrect.” There is congruent and incongruent. As of this writing, I noticed that I didn’t yet write an article on congruence. I will. For now, congruence is when all of the words, voice, facial expressions, hand gestures, body language and use of space in three dimensions come together so that the audience understands the intended ideas and is unaware of the speaker’s delivery. With a bad actor, you are painfully aware that they are acting; with a great actor, you are unware of the acting, as if the actor and the character are one.

How to cause  pauses to occur in our speeches is partly answered by what happens during the silence.

What you are doing during pauses:

  • listening with the audience (observing them)
  • giving the audience time to absorb and respond
  • breathing
  • thinking
  • moving
  • getting a prop

What the audience is doing during pauses:

While silence is literally the time when we are without sound, it isn’t quite enough to just stop talking anytime as I demonstrated with inappropriately timed pauses. Random silence confuses. Silence needs to occur just after the words or syllables that carry the meaning so that the audience has time to respond to its meaning.

Pausing is facilitated by word sequence, placing the power words so that you can pause after them. Consider the following sentences:

  • The mouse inside the box I opened, moved after first looking dead!
  • I opened the box. Inside I found a mouse, that looked dead… until it moved!

The first sentence provides only one place to pause after the word “opened.” Try reading the sentence, pausing after other words and it just doesn’t work.

In the second line, the sequence of words and the punctuation almost demand that you pause. You might imagine yourself acting it out with hunched shoulders, wide eyes, and a look of suspense and finally, surprise. The second line might have been clearer, you getting a picture as the words went by. If it did for you, it will for your audiences too.

Comedians do this with the joke structure Setup – Pause – Punch. After the punch, any more syllables interrupt the audience’s time to laugh. In public speaking, pause after power words, the words that carry the meaning of the sentence or phrase. Pause where there would be a comma or at the end of sentences, intuiting the length of the pause based on the importance of the power word.

This contributed by my friend Helene Patry in San Diego: “when a speaker voices a short phrase that is quite saturated with meaning, they will repeat the phrase and then pause. Pausing alone in this case may not be sufficient.”

I agree! Mindful repetition gives an additional moment for the audience to really absorb what you are saying. Overdo it and you will irritate them.

At first, you might need to write your speeches fully to identify and place the power words. With practice, you will learn to instinctively speak this way. Intend to speak congruently with silence sounding out the meaning and emotion in your speeches. By doing this, you will Permit Audience (I like to say “Averyone”) to Use Silence Effectively. PAUSE.


Dynamic Speaker or Magnetic Speaker?

Perhaps the single greatest question I grapple with as a speaker is, “How can I touch audiences to their soul, to the essence of their being?”  I wondered if I should be more dynamic, perhaps to captivate them.  I wondered if I should be less dynamic, but more “real.”  As I studied many speakers live, on audiotape, and on videotape, I began to realize that some speakers had something that I could not explain, something that drew me to them and held me there while other speakers seemed to let me drift away.  Even dynamic speakers could lose me.  It wasn’t until I met Lee Glickstein that I received the vocabulary to describe this phenomenon for myself and resolve at least part of this question.

Lee Glickstein, creator of Speaking Circles®, described the difference between dynamic speakers and magnetic speakers, and let us know that elements of both are required for great communications.  This article briefly introduces Lee’s concept, shares my own ideas on the subject, and gives you resources to pursue it for yourself.

Contrasting Dynamos and Magnets

These distinctions between dynamism and magnetism in speaking were adapted from “Be Heard Now! Tap into Your Inner Speaker and Communicate with Ease,” by Lee Glickstein, Broadway Books:




Basic nature



Primary orientation



At best


Transfixes audiences


Transforms audiences


With confidence


With receptivity


Use of silences

Pause for effect

Stop to connect

Use of humor

Makes people laugh

Lets people laugh

Primary strength



Primary mode



Priority activity

Talking to audience

Listening to audience

Charisma comes from

Exuding energy

Attracting energy

Electricity source

Pumping out

Decreasing resistance in

Functional role




Tends to be scripted

Tends to be fluid


Dynamism or Magnetism?

“Is it better to be dynamic or magnetic?”  Good question and an easy one to answer – both, and it depends.  You might deliver the most brilliant, deepest nugget of truth, but if the audience is near comatose and doesn’t hear you, what difference does the message make?  Conversely, if you are constantly over the top, out of tune with the audience, you might desensitize them or lose credibility with too much show.

In practicing for the Toastmasters Region VI speech contest, I had to tell my Canadian audiences that my style might seem a little over-the-top for them; so just ignore it because most of the Region VI audience and judges would be Americans who tend to like a good sizzle with their steak.  I still received feedback suggesting that I tone it down a little.  After the contest, a comment I frequently received was while I was the most “real” of the speakers, the winner probably won because he was more dynamic.  Argh!

Lesson #1: Know your audience and cater to their expectations.

Lesson #2: Don’t take your performance in a Toastmasters speech contest as the measure of your ability to communicate.

I like to measure my ability to communicate by the number of teary-eyed people who approach me after I speak, share a hug, and tell me how deeply the speech moved them.

Sometimes, the most moving moments with an audience come when I leave my intended path and go where it seems the audience wants to go.  I once spoke at the Positive Thinkers Club of Kingston, Ontario.  After I exhausted my prepared text, the tongue-in-cheek presentation, “The Power of Procrastination,” I told the audience that I’d like to explore some more serious ideas (without any idea of where I was heading).  In about 30 minutes (perhaps it was 60 minutes), we shared some amazing things that I scarcely remember.  They invited me to return anytime.

If I was dynamic, it wasn’t due to any deliberate attempt to be dynamic.  I just wanted to share with them a different space from the one each of us came from.  We entered into a third space in the moment of communication, somewhere between our worlds, where we could meet openly and honestly.  There was no pressure, no nervousness, no rules.

Speaking Circles

To explain Speaking Circles®, I drew this excerpt from

“A Speaking Circle is a safe, small group, usually 5-10 participants, where we offer an innovative, natural and absolutely supportive approach to public speaking: being genuinely yourself, and receiving positive, appreciative and empowering acceptance for doing so. The Facilitator opens with a few minutes to set the tone and discuss the nature of the work. Guidelines for absolute safety are laid down and any questions answered. Each person gets a chance to stand in front of the group for three minutes (first time participants go last) to be the center of attention and ‘check in.’ This may involve being silent and ‘receiving’ the support of the group, rather than any priority on having to speak. After this three minute round, each person, in the same order, gets five minutes to follow any thread or theme, or remain silent, with the priority always on ‘receiving the listening.’ This five minutes is followed by positive feedback led by the Facilitator. The feedback, along with the three and five minute ‘talks,’ is recorded on a personal videotape given to the participant for private viewing.”


To find out more about Speaking Circles®, look for books and audio tapes by Lee Glickstein at your nearest bookstore, and


Click the book to buy it now:

Lee Glickstein’s Web Page

Certified Speaking Circle® Facilitators:

Your Journey

Through mindful learning, practice, and “being” with your audiences, you will find your balance between dynamism and magnetism.  Each of us has a different mix that best complements us in that moment of communication with the audience.  How long will it take to get there?  I don’t know.  In communication, I don’t know if there is a “there,” or if just being on the journey is it.  Is there a destination or only a path?  Perhaps each of us must answer that question for ourselves.  Perhaps there is no one answer, but only your answer.

Get Lee’s book: Be Heard Now!

Kate Peters Brings Our Voice Forward!

If the skeleton of a speech is its structure, then its soul is our voice. Our voice breathes life into lifeless text, inviting the hopeful to join us in a moment of communication, a moment of human connection.  The voice is like a kite that needs wind to carry it aloft; among many elements, our voice needs our breath. Many people struggle to breathe while speaking in public. In this guest article, Kate Peters, voice coach, performer, and author shares exercises and strategies for developing and using our fully supportive breath.

Voice Forward

by Kate Peters (Copyright 2008 by Kate Peters, used with permission)

It’s the day of your presentation. You eat your favorite day-of-talk breakfast.  You warm up your voice and say a prayer.  When you arrive, you shake lots of hands, set up your merchandise at the back of the room, and get yourself motivated to talk.  When they call your name, you tell the obligatory joke about the common mispronunciation.  You step up to the podium, look out at your audience with a smile and start off with that story that works so well.  You ease into the talk and, after awhile, it’s smooth sailing. In the end, you stick the landing and leave the audience informed and excited.

Later, as you reflect on your performance, you recognize that you didn’t feel like yourself until you “warmed up.”  You sense that your opening was a little stiff. Even after hundreds of presentations, the worst part is still the first few minutes.

Does this scenario seem familiar? If it does, you are in good company—professional speakers all over experience this problem. The good news is there is a solution and it doesn’t require expensive voice lessons or coaching (though, as a vocal coach, I am always happy to take on new clients).

Let’s consider some important facts: In the first 30 seconds you speak, people are assessing your voice rather than listening to what you say. They are determining how your voice aligns with how you look and how you present yourself. If they don’t know you, they’re trying to figure out who you are. If they do know you, they’re trying to figure out what’s going on with you. Many people fail to realize that their speaking voice is just as important to conveying their message as the clothes they are wearing or the words they are saying.  The point is, if you don’t feel like yourself in those first few minutes of speaking, you won’t sound authentic—and if you don’t sound authentic, you’ll undermine your credibility before you even have a chance to get to your message. 

So the question is, How do you make sure you sound genuine in those early moments of speaking? The answer: Breathe.

Simple.  Everyone breathes.  It’s one of the most natural things we do; however, the problem is when we get nervous or stressed, we forget to breathe.  Breathing is the antidote to stress, and here’s why:  First, breathing relaxes and energizes us all at once. Second, when we breathe deeply, our larynx relaxes and our voice settles into a comfortable, natural sound.  And finally, breathing encourages a good speaking pace that’s not too slow or too fast, allowing time for people to consider what we’re actually saying.

Here are three things you can do to incorporate good breathing into your speech.

1.         Practice proper breathing. Start by breathing in through your nose. Imagine you are a vessel filling up with air like a vase being filled with water.  Fill your abdomen first, then your lower ribs, and then all the way up to your chin.  As you exhale, your lower abs should compress as though you were rolling up a tube of toothpaste.  Repeat, but this time, as you exhale, blow the air out loudly as if you were extinguishing candles on a birthday cake. Repeat three more times, always breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Practice when you have a quiet moment alone at home or the office. You can practice while sitting or standing. You can even practice while exercising at the fitness center. I find it particularly therapeutic to practice proper breathing while driving, especially when another driver unexpectedly pulls out in front of me!

2.         Breathe into your words.  The next time you practice for a presentation, take time to inhale and exhale deeply five times before you start to speak. Then take one more deep breath and breathe into your first words. Stop after every few sentences or ideas, and take another deep breath.  Practice this several times. After a few sessions you’ll be surprised at how much more aware you are of your breathing. More importantly, you’ll immediately be aware of the lack of air when you are not breathing correctly.

3.         Just do it.  Not to steal Nike’s tagline, but the next time you give a talk, use what you have been practicing. Take time to inhale and exhale deeply just before you get up to speak.  Then, as you start to speak, breathe into your first words.  Do this every time you give a presentation. You’ll be more relaxed and you’ll come across as authentic, thus improving your credibility.

So that’s it.  Breathe, breathe, breathe and breathe again.  Of course, breathing isn’t everything.  Talent, skill and your message are also important, but if you are short of breath, you’ll be hard pressed to demonstrate those wonderful talents and skills, and you’ll struggle to make your message come to life. And if that doesn’t work, call me. I’m taking new clients.

Copyright 2008 by Kate Peters, used with permission

About Kate Peters

As a voice coach, performer, and author of Can You Hear Me Now? 31 Days to harnessing the power of your vocal impact, Kate Peters helps people use their voice to get what they want. Through her presentations, seminars, workshops and private coaching, Kate helps executives, speakers, trainers, and performers focus on finding their vocal strengths and helping these individuals express themselves in ways supportive of their professional and personal lives.

Based in Orange County, CA, Kate has taught voice privately and in colleges and universities for over 25 years.  In addition, she has been the vocal trainer for many successful business clients, and has been a featured speaker with the University of California Alumni Association, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Women in Business, Rotary, the National Association of Female Executives, the Council of Women Realtors and others. She has been a featured guest on many radio stations including the KNX Business Hour in Los Angeles, and Women Aloud, with Mo Gaffney and Shana Wride.  To learn more, visit her web site at or her blog at

Just Be Yourself

“Just be yourself!”

I often hear these words of encouragement from well-intentioned people suggesting how others could improve their public speaking. “Just be yourself.”

I always wondered what these words meant. “Just be myself.”

Who else would I be? I can’t be you. I can try to be you, or your neighbour, but I would eventually return to being me. I have no choice but to be me. It isn’t something I can vote on, but how does my being me relate to speaking in public? What if I was shy and usually spoke in quiet, whispery tones and rarely met eyes with others. What does being myself mean and is it helpful in public speaking?

Instead of depending on only my opinion for this answer, I asked the opinions of other speakers and speech coaches. The question was, “What does, ‘Be yourself,’ mean to you? To be or not be oneself, what would one do?”

Here are their answers.  (more…)

Speaking as Singing: Beyond Vocal Variety

©2000, Barclay McMillan, Used with permission

As I began to mull over what I might say in this article on voice, I came across an interview in the Ottawa Citizen with the renowned Canadian choreographer and dancer Margie Gillis who was coming to perform at the National Arts Centre. “For years I couldn’t articulate what I do,” says Gillis whose extraordinary ability to touch people’s souls with her dancing is celebrated the world over, “but now I know it is the neuro-muscular system. Everything — emotions, politics, spirituality — has a physical response. What happens in the body is this emotion turns into electricity and touches the muscles. It’s moving to internal landscapes. I choreograph from that place.” (more…)

Speaking from the Heart vs Using Techniques

Craig Senior 2007-12-16

Heart PulsingTouching an audience profoundly is what many speakers hope for. We want our words and ideas to survive the closing applause, to be remembered, to manifest themselves as future actions by those who heard them. Among the many elements of a delivered speech, I am often asked whether it is more effective to speak from the heart or use great speaking techniques? (more…)

“Hello, My Name is C-C-C-Craig”


Let’s go back, back to your early teen years, maybe 13, 14 or 15 which are, in fact, your early teen years.  Do you remember the first time you fell in love?  When you saw the most beautiful girl or guy walk past you in school.  Music seemed to play from the walls as they walked by in slow motion.  Ah, total bliss.  You desperately summoned the courage to say, “Hi.”  You walked up bravely, ready to deliver eloquent words of introduction, but instead you stammered, stuttered and stumbled over your words.  Perhaps you dribbled, spit or sprayed on them.  Perhaps you fled in silence into the fantasy world of distant adoration.  With each failed attempt to communicate, you felt yourself growing smaller and smaller. 


If you remember the kind of nervousness you felt with your first romance (and for some of you that was just last week) then you understand what it feels like for those of us who stutter.  Even the simple act of answering the phone can create such fear that when the phone rang I would suggest, “That must be for you.  You answer it.”  Worse, the phone rang and I was alone… [ring] alone… [ring] just the phone and me [ring] alone. (more…)

Fools Worth Seeing!

tempest-in-a-teapot.jpgWe all do foolish things sometimes. Yesterday, I watched some fools for 90 minutes. My friend Cindy took me to see A Company of Fools’ production of “Tempest in a Teapot” at the National Art Centre’s 4th Stage. Saturday afternoon, poor weather, let’s go to a play.

When I watch movies, hear musicians, attend productions, part of my mind insists on looking for production flubs. The more I took in the Fools, the more that part of me quietened and I took in the play. Every part of the play was simply amazing. The clever script meandered between The Tempest and observer, between character and commentator, between classical and modern. Scott Florence, the Director and Production Manager, said they wrote the script collaboratively (after stealing its core from the long dead Bard of course). What an amazing collaboration! Its brilliant tapestry of words kept me looking for the next twist and I smiled at every corner.