The pause that refreshes

Today’s post is inspired by a 1929 ad from Coca-Cola.  In that year, the company came up with a truly great slogan that you still sometimes hear today: “The pause that refreshes.”

Pausing from a Coca-Cola ad
Coca-Cola Ad – 1929

As speakers, we can learn a lot from that slogan.  Knowing when and how to pause is a great skill, and one that will greatly enhance our effectiveness.

Too many people speak too quickly.  This shortcoming is understandable.

The adrenalin is flowing and our pulse quickens.  We know the material so well, that in our enthusiasm to convey our message, we forget that our words – which we have spent hours honing and crafting – are being heard for the first time by our audience.

Pausing serves us well in many ways:

1.  It allows our audiences to absorb what we are saying.

2.  It helps rid us of the bad habit of feeling compelled to fill the silence with awkward “ahs” and “ums”.

3.  Pausing can signal that something important is about to come, and thus focus our audience’s attention.

4.  It can signal that something important has just been said, and that we want our audience to think about it.

5.  Pausing makes us look thoughtful, confident and credible.

Pauses need only last a second or two, but the effect can be profound.  Some examples might be helpful.

First, Winston Churchill.  Listen to his famous “Their Finest Hour” speech, but focus particularly on the final part (1:15 to 1:38).  Remember the context.  The year was 1940, Germany had swept through Western Europe and England now stood alone.  Listen to the words, but hear the power and drama in the pauses.

Second, Barack Obama.  Below is his election victory speech on 4 November 2008 in Chicago.  You need not listen to the entire 17 minutes, though it would be well worth your time.  The first two or three minutes will suffice to show the dexterity with which Obama uses pauses for dramatic effect.

Some people say that music is what happens between the notes.  Arthur Schnabel, a classical pianist from Austria, put it this way: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists.  But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!”

It is the same with public speaking.  Great speeches take place between the words.  During the pauses, the significance of what we have heard sinks in; during the pauses, the speech takes on special meaning for us.  And that is very refreshing.

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  1. “The Pause that refreshes” was coined by two sisters and their brother from Anderson, IN. Jerald, Corinne and Mable Millspaw. Their father owned a local lumber company and the three of them live in the same house on 4th Street. As the story goes told to me by them, Coke had a slogan contest. They devised a narrative of driving to Atlanta from Indiana and how the would Pause along the way and Refresh with a Coke. “The Pause that Refreshes” For this they received 100 shares of Coke Cola, $10,000, a 1929 Pontiac cope w/rumble seat and a life time supply of Coke. Once a month a coke truck would stop at their alley door and deliver a case of Coke.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

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TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

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CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

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Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

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Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

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World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

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HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

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CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

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Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

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Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

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