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The Problem with the Pause.

Laura McHarrie is a master of the strategically placed pause. She has been involved with Toastmasters for 10 years and has completed both the old communication and leadership programme resulting in her being awarded the Distinguished Toastmaster pin this year.  She has been in business management for many years, since 1980 indeed.  

In this her pathways icebreaker speech she plans to share some insights when the pause has been a potential problem rather than a precedence and how … she has gotten around it. With her speech entitled The Problem with the Pause please welcome Laura McHarrie”

There are three pausal phases over three particular ages that I want to share with you tonight. They are the awkward pause, the pregnant pause and the mental pause. 

Lady president, Madam toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and special guests, enter the first phase – the awkward pause. 

You may recall your own version from your early years and teens?? Yes???

My younger sister inherited the gift of the gab from my father,  I was happy for her to make friends with folks and then slide in beside her to connect with her cast offs.

My mother is deaf so she doesn’t hear you even if you shout, what’s more, she simply talks over the top of everyone.

Me? I was much quieter, largely cos I couldn’t get a word in edgeways.  Some people would say I was shy, some introverted, me I just thought myself in another world.  I had infamous imaginary friends called, Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog!

The pauses not so awkward for me but they were for the teachers and friends who’d ask me a question and had to wait and wait and wait.  I wasn’t after all that fluent at expressing an opinion.

Enter The second age – The pregnant pause

I fell into leadership roles fairly quickly when I started work.  My pauses were perceived as good listening skills and I think over time, I learnt that my being slow on the uptake and the inherent  pause gave me the chance to develop REAL listening skills.  In fact I got quite good at it. … being slow on the uptake doesn’t mean I am thick though.  I did do a Mensa test (just to check as you do) and I am pleased to confirm that I do have box standard average intelligence!

I digress, it turns out that active listening is a brilliant leadership tactic, especially if you don’t know the answer.  Nodding, confirming, prodding and probing for a third option means that you get some quality thinking time and the space to grapple for a sensible solution.

The pregnant pauses really not so difficult for me but somewhat disarming for the team members who really had to think things through for themselves.  I wasn’t going to come up with an immediate answer … was I?

When I eventually, stepped out of corporate life, I found I had to develop an um and err to keep the conversation flowing.  Without a management title, to keep people’s attention, I found it difficult to finish my slow and laborious deliberations when I was with other more excitable entrepreneurial types. 

So when I found Toastmasters … 5-7 minutes of uninterrupted time to talk, I joined on the spot. Brilliant!  Toastmasters helped me to kick away those verbal crutches – it took a while but the pause came back.  I had re-engaged with the full stop and capital letter.

Enter The third age – The mental pause

A period of severe memory loss.  The added affliction for a lady of a certain age.

The problem of course with the mental pause is that I don’t know whether I still have your your your attention.  A now-famous Harvard study found that 50% of the time, our minds are wandering.  Whilst I am having mental pause;  wrestling for that right word, you my audience could have ambled off somewhere … ambivalent to my next enthralling utterance.


But I have a plan.  It’s taken me 10 years to come up with it …. told you I was slow!  I have a plan to make my pauses more purposeful.  The awkward pause, the pregnant pause, the mental pause … have all served me well.  Today,  as I start out on pathways I explore the importance of consciously listening.   The Hark Embark … a portfolio of talks and workshops that I can take on the road to accredited speaker.    And … Fellow Toastmasters … the problem with the pause … is just the start.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this project is for the member to introduce himself or herself to the club and learn the basic structure of a public speech.

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