Here are CNN commentators Fareed Zakaria and Eliot Spitzer in an engaging discussion on Libya, Syria, Unions and immigration. This is taking place in front of a live audience and offers us the rare opportunity to see two media professionals in front of a live audience. I’m struck by the contrasting styles of these two men and how, on closer examination, this clip offers us some unique insight into the power of the pause and the power of intonation.
If you watch from the beginning of the above clip to minute 2:45, you can see Mr. Zakaria making his observations with clarity and emphasis through intonation. He pauses between thoughts, allowing us to ponder his points. He emphasizes words to drive his points home. Do you agree?
In contrast, we see Mr Spitzer bull-doze his way through his observations and questions with as little “air” between thoughts as possible. As if he is speaking one long sentence. Also, his intonation and emphasis are almost flat-lined.
When coaching 1:1, or Presentation Skills, I encourage the overuse of pausing and intonation as an exercise. When speakers get excited about a topic, they sometimes speed up to match their excitement. It’s important to remember that pausing affords your audience the ability to ponder your last thought and ruminate on it for a while. It increases your impact.
Intonation helps your audience understand the point you’re trying to make by separating the important bits from the forgettable. Be a verbal highlighter.
Speaking of highlighters, they’re one way to improve intonation in your next talk. Highlight the words you want to emphasize to make your point clearly. Why? Because when the pressure’s on, you shouldn’t leave it to chance.