Category Archives: Insight


For the experienced, confident presenter or speaker the pause becomes natural. For the less experienced it’s more difficult and yet mastering it can be the surest way to improved performance.

In music as Claude Debussy once said: :”Music happens in the space between the notes.” The pause – for dramatic effect – is equally vital to acting. This is what I learned from one actor answering these questions.

How important is the pause to the actor?

It is everything, the difference between the ordinary and the exceptional performance. It should be part of an actor’s DNA.

How do you know when to pause?

Sometimes the author tells you by writing PAUSE in the script, or SILENCE when a major interruption is called for. The director will usually ensure the instructions are followed.

Most times however it is instinctive.A recognising of the sub-text, a sense of the moment, feeling for the response you seek.

It is everything that cannot be said with words. A look. A breath. A moment of connection. The most intimate and profound moments can happen in silence, when the emotional weight of something is too much to express through verbal language.

“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.” – Sir Ralph Richardson

“Thou weigh‘st thy words before thou givest them breath.”  William Shakespeare, Othello




Pitchcoach-004-SeriousAudience In any pitch, presentation or interview before an audience the way you come across matters, usually more than what you actually say. You need to perform, something actors do for a living. This is what I learnt from one actress, Imogen Sage, when asked about dealing with an audience.

How do you handle nerves facing a live a audience?

Preparation is everything. Through constant repetition in rehearsal you become so familiar and so comfortable in the role that knowing your lines will be no problem, even if you are nervous. This means you can enjoy, rather than fear, the sense of occasion. This is something that actors live for.

How do you respond to a difficult or disappointingly small audience?

You do your job and give it 100%. You give everything and expect nothing in return.


How does the audience effect the performance?

Perfomances do not exist in the absence of an audience. There is two way exchange of energy, with a shared sense of anticipation. As an actor you tap into this to be ‘in the moment’ and tune in to what kind of audience they are. As much as they are listening to you, you are listening to them.

The theatre is the involuntary reflex of the ideas of the crowd”.

Sarah Bernhardt




HammersmithHospitalSculptureSome weeks ago, (for what turned out to be a very minor problem) I needed to attend the walk-in dermatology clinic at the Hammersmith Hospital. Managing to lose myself in endless corridors, I arrived late to find I was number 43 in the queue of other patients.

Not surprisingly, since illness is not defined by age or background or country of origin or demographics, the patients were a diverse group and, I assume, equally diverse as ‘patients’ -easy, difficult, resistant, uncommunicative (many not speaking English).

They shared, again I assume, some level of concern ranging from mild to extreme and fearful.

This is where an astonishing demonstration of the perfect bedside manner came in.

As my number  was called out, I realised that there was a single consultant only and that I was the 43rd of her diverse patients towards the end of a long day. In the ten minutes or so of consultation, I experienced something akin to a pitch, a good one.

BEDSIDE MANNERIn the first moments, she somehow ‘read’ me as an individual making the all important connection on introduction that reassured me about what might follow. In ancient rhetoric this is the appeal of ethos.

Her professional skill and expertise, her reasoning- logos- solved the practical problem.

But it was her emotional quality, the appeal of pathos, that even in the restraints of a ten minute doctor/patient meeting, inspired as well reassured this patient.





Nelson Mandela had charisma and a towering presence but he was not a great orator. His impact as a communicator owed more to his appearance than his speeches. Featured in the Mail, extracts from Nelson Mandela Portrait Of An Extraordinary Man by Richard Stengel revealed some fascinating mandela 1insights into his belief in the importance of appearance:    Continue reading


This was the headline on Sunday in the Observer’s This Week’s Question with Tom Lamont and Viv Goskop going ‘head to head’. It started, like so many articles on this subject, by referencing a poll that revealed people feared public speaking more than they feared being buried alive. They did not quote the source of this finding now seemingly an absolute truth so often is it repeated.

unhappyaudience  Among scores of nervous presenters I have worked with there was not one who would rather die than speak. However the frequent repetition may have added to what are their perfectly understandable fears.

As Viv Gosakop, not fearful, and a comedian who runs workshops- How to do Stand-Up and Never Be Afraid of Anything Ever Again (Within Reason, Does Not Include Shark Attacks)- says “The thing is the more you practise the less the fear gets in the way. People who speak confidently in public are not without fear.They just do it with the fear and with plenty of respect for it- because it’s normal and natural.”

Tom Lamont, fearful, said “What’s cruel about public speaking, and why it weighs on so many, is that it tends to be forced on you  (work, weddings, birthdays). Worse it tends to be booked way in advance……a speech looms…it creeps closer, nerves piling on nerves…..scarier than Brian Blessed.”

So, use the time to practise!  One tip. Rehears, (performing, not just reading your speech) to a friend. Doing this will reduce nerves on the day. And as you rehearse, practise the pauses most of all. They will make you appear confident. They will make you feel more confident. Try some deep breathing as well, pausing! Inhale-pause-exhale-pause….

Read more on pausing, and more on fear,  Handling the BIG speech nerves.