Heard a speaker the other night who had credibility by position (he was involved in a national court case that everyone in the U.S. would recognize). En route to making his central point, he began with some audience participation questions: “How many of you understand that…?” Everyone raised their hand. “How many of you understand…?” Nodding and agreement. Story. Point. “How many of you understand…?” but no pause followed. Many in the audience started to raise hands, but without the pause most stopped halfway.By the end of the 30-minute speech, the phrase “How many of you understand…?” had to have been uttered more than fifty times. After the first few times with nice pauses for effect, every other time it was just a lead-in to a statement. With no pause, there was no audience participation effect, and it became downright distracting.Errors are two:
- Don’t ask rhetorical questions that you don’t want and wait for the audience to contemplate the answer to.
- Don’t use any speaking device or ruse so much that the audience is tempted to keep a count of the number of times you have used it. Pretty soon whatever goodwill and involvement in your message is distracted by the repetitive nature of your speech.
Use pauses effectively. Avoid meaningless repetition.