The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
1. Pause Enables the Mind of the Speaker to Gather His Forces Before Delivering the Final Volley
It is often dangerous to rush into battle without pausing for preparation or waiting for recruits. Consider
Custer's massacre as an instance.
You can light a match by holding it beneath a lens and concentrating the sun's rays. You would not expect the
match to flame if you jerked the lens back and forth quickly. Pause, and the lens gathers the heat. Your
thoughts will not set fire to the minds of your hearers unless you pause to gather the force that comes by a
second or two of concentration. Maple trees and gas wells are rarely tapped continually; when a stronger flow
is wanted, a pause is made, nature has time to gather her reserve forces, and when the tree or the well is
reopened, a stronger flow is the result.
Use the same common sense with your mind. If you would make a thought particularly effective, pause just
before its utterance, concentrate your mind-energies, and then give it expression with renewed vigor. Carlyle
was right: "Speak not, I passionately entreat thee, till thy thought has silently matured itself. Out of silence
comes thy strength. Speech is silvern, Silence is golden; Speech is human, Silence is divine."
Silence has been called the father of speech. It should be. Too many of our public speeches have no fathers.
They ramble along without pause or break. Like Tennyson's brook, they run on forever. Listen to little
children, the policeman on the corner, the family conversation around the table, and see how many pauses
they naturally use, for they are unconscious of effects. When we get before an audience, we throw most of our
natural methods of expression to the wind, and strive after artificial effects. Get back to the methods of
2. Pause Prepares the Mind of the Auditor to Receive Your Message
Herbert Spencer said that all the universe is in motion. So it is--and all perfect motion is rhythm. Part of
rhythm is rest. Rest follows activity all through nature. Instances: day and night;
spring--summer--autumn--winter; a period of rest between breaths; an instant of complete rest between heart
beats. Pause, and give the attention-powers of your audience a rest. What you say after such a silence will then
have a great deal more effect.
When your country cousins come to town, the noise of a passing car will awaken them, though it seldom
affects a seasoned city dweller. By the continual passing of cars his attention-power has become deadened. In
one who visits the city but seldom, attention-value is insistent. To him the noise comes after a long pause;
hence its power. To you, dweller in the city, there is no pause; hence the low attention-value. After riding on a
train several hours you will become so accustomed to its roar that it will lose its attention-value, unless the
train should stop for a while and start again. If you attempt to listen to a clock-tick that is so far away that you
can barely hear it, you will find that at times you are unable to distinguish it, but in a few moments the sound
becomes distinct again. Your mind will pause for rest whether you desire it to do so or not.
The attention of your audience will act in quite the same way. Recognize this law and prepare for it--by
pausing. Let it be repeated: the thought that follows a pause is much more dynamic than if no pause had
occurred. What is said to you of a night will not have the same effect on your mind as if it had been uttered in
the morning when your attention had been lately refreshed by the pause of sleep. We are told on the first page
of the Bible that even the Creative Energy of God rested on the "seventh day." You may be sure, then, that the
frail finite mind of your audience will likewise demand rest. Observe nature, study her laws, and obey them in
3. Pause Creates Effective Suspense
Suspense is responsible for a great share of our interest in life; it will be the same with your speech. A play or