Originally, I was going to title this post, “The Power of the Pause” but opted out because it sounded too over the top. Then, I thought about naming it “How to Adjust to Silence”. But nah, that’s way too straightforward. And then I remembered, people love acronyms, and I got a good one for B.A.N.E.
Yes, that Bane, with the Bane voice.
I often recommend my clients find and follow a voice model. In the same vein as having role model, a voice model provides an example of something to strive for and copy. Not only does that do wonders for your pronunciation, but it can also break up the bad habits in your rhythm.
So how could this be? How could you become a better speaker by mimicking the speech patterns of Tom Hardy‘s ridiculousness? Let’s look at it this way:
- B. eats
- A. cknowledgment
- N. ose
- E. ntertainment
Those four letters unlock the keys to eliminating the overuse of “um” and “uh”.
Most people deliver a speech like they’re reading the ingredients off a food label. The reading is dull and dry, so in order to compensate, they’ll try to speak quickly. Usually, too quickly. And as a result of that, there’s an increase of “uh” or “um” to fill the void while the speaker is thinking of the next bit of information to say.
Think of the rhythm of your speech. The material needs to be broken into different beats. If you like movies (or sex) think of foreplay and the climax. If you like sports, think of boxing technique. No boxer is going to win a fight with a single jab over and over. Likewise, no boxer is going to win by tiring himself out with a flurry of punches in the first minute.
So don’t do the same to your speaking. Don’t have a one-note delivery. Don’t rush through it.
Take it from Bane, you can avoid the stutters and mutters by speaking slowly.
If you don’t consider the beats of your speech, you probably have zero idea of audience awareness. Sometimes youmight have to memorize something you’ll need to say, but you can’t disengage.
You can’t be gazing at the corner of the room as you’re remembering what to say. Don’t recite information just to recite information. If you do that, you’ve eliminated communication from the equation. That’s only going to lead to more “um” and “uh” mutters. Instead of talking at something, you’re supposed to be talking with … something (Hey, I’ll admit, sometimes it eases the nerves by not thinking of the crowd as people.)
You’ll address this by re-arranging the material of your speech, writing an outline, bringing a copy of your speech to the front, or considering your speech as a dialogue. When we’re in the middle of a conversation, the frequency of “um” drops significantly.
Think of who you’re trying to reach– like Bane!
Can you see Bane’s nose? No. Can you see your own nose? Sometimes, if you look really hard.
Regardless of whether it’s in your line of sight or not, you know its function. What I want you to do as you read this is take both your index fingers and plug up your nostrils. Now try to inhale. Try three times.
Okay, hurry and take your fingers out! Whew, that was a close one…
Don’t ever take breathing for granted. When some people get nervous, they clam up and hold their breaths subconsciously. Others will try to speak quickly (see above) and forget to inhale. The key to battling the nerves isn’t cutting the oxygen intake but opening the airway.
If you’re breathing correctly, it’s harder to “um” and/or “uh”.
I can guarantee that Bane’s getting plenty of air with that doohickey!
Speeches aren’t always fun, but you can always find a way to make them entertaining. That’s not some fortune cooking philosophy either.
If you treat the material as something you dread, you’re only going to make it harder on yourself.
It’s up to you how much you want to play up the theatrics, but you can always become a character if being yourself is too tough. Not being yourself, channeling another, is totally okay in this type of environment– just as long as you can keep it up for the duration of the message.
Having fun is pretty cliche, but there’s a huge take away in enjoying yourself besides enjoying yourself. When you’re hanging with your friends, do you stutter and mutter “uh”? When you’re in the theater talking over how awesome that movie is, do you stutter and mutter “um”?
No, because you’re fully absorbed in the entertainment aspect. Taking on the role of the entertainer also gives you the weapons to fight awkward silence. I’ve mentioned this in interview coaching before: it’s not awkward unless you make it awkward.
Take your pauses with stride. Stop with purpose. Become comfortable with silence.
If we had to modify the famous Bane quote, it’d go like this: Oh, you think the silence is your enemy. I was born in it, molded by it. You can watch the scene muted, and it totally works!
So one last time:
- Beats – utilize it
- Acknowledgement – recognize it
- Nose – use it
- Entertainment – deliver it
Ultimately, you could apply this same voice model methodology to Obama’s approach to speech, but he doesn’t give us the cool acronym. Nor did he break Batman‘s back– I’m just sayin’…