Broadcasters seem to have a fear of silence. We dread “dead air” and rush to fill each millisecond with something – anything. But doing so eliminates one of the most powerful tools of effective communication: silence. The Power Of The Pause is just one of the qualities that made the late, great Vin Scully a broadcasting legend.
There are so many things to say about Vin but one of the greatest lessons of his legacy is the ability to capture the moment to make an event more memorable because of how he brought it to life. And one of his most effective tools is silence.
The Power of the Pause is part of great performances. A brief moment of silence creates anticipation, adds suspense, and signals something important is happening.
Some refer to it as The Silence Gap. Pausing is a communication weapon that applies to the stage, screen, interviews, and radio shows.
Vin Scully: The Power Of The Pause
Vin added to the listener/viewer experience by pouring his personality into every event he was describing. He was the voice of the Brooklyn, then Los Angeles, Dodgers for 67 years. He announced three perfect games, 20 no-hitters, and some of the biggest moments in sports history.
In 1974, Scully described Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, the blast that made him baseball’s home run king. Stop reading this now and listen to the audio in the sidebar.
This was one of the great moments in baseball history, and it was made more powerful because Vin paused. He waited for the right moment, then delivered an amazing commentary on what Aaron’s achievement meant to society.
How Vin Used Silence As A Tool
In an interview with another broadcast legend and former partner, Ross Porter, Scully talked about using silence to capture the magnitude of that moment.
The video is in the sidebar. It’s all great, whether or not you are a baseball fan. Listen if you have time. But at least advance to the 17:22 mark to hear Scully talk about using silence in one of the most memorable moments in broadcast history.
Now listen to his legendary call during the 1988 World Series, when Kirk Gibson hit one of the most famous home runs. He again lets it build, never getting in the way of the action.
Then, at just the right time, he constructs the perfect comment that puts an exclamation point on the moment.
In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!
Perfect. Brilliant. 12 words that live forever because a personality captured the moment.
Vin Scully is a legend. The GOAT. He made every big event better. And he could make a meaningless game in the middle of August interesting because of how he painted the picture with incredible storytelling.
One of his gifts was timing and one of his tools was using silence. That’s the power of the pause. Whether on a team show or a solo show, learn to embrace this concept.
This requires coordination, discipline, and most importantly, trust between cast members. Use hand signals to let cohosts know the pause is for effect and to not rush in. While learning this skill, you might even consider editing pauses into recorded segments or phone calls to add suspense.
We all apply labels too easily and often without perspective. But in this case, Vin Scully is the GOAT. He’s not just the greatest baseball announcer of all time. Vin Scully is the greatest sportscaster of all time.
Vin projected warmth in his delivery. There was an intimacy in his presentation.
He was humble, always observing the viewer/listener experience. Scully understood the game is the attraction and he was the storyteller that enriched the listener experience.
He always stayed under control. There was an enthusiasm that enhanced the game, but he never shouted, screamed, or became too emotional.
And he was a master wordsmith. He never used big words that were hard to understand. Everyone could follow along. Yet he used a colorful and interesting vocabulary with a keen sense of how to string words together so the game was always more interesting when Vin was telling the story.
There’s one more lesson for radio shows. Scully worked alone. He was a solo performer. In a world with two or three personalities in the booth of most every sporting event, Vin Scully was a solo show. He didn’t need a cohost or partner because he mastered the art of conversation when talking only to the listener/viewer.