First, let’s talk about what doesn’t happen when a speaker pauses.
- The audience does not think that you’ve forgotten something.
- Nobody can hear your heart beating.
- Nobody will think that you are stupid.
- The audience does not think that you are a bad speaker.
- The audience does not think that your speech is over.
So what does happen when a speaker pauses?
- You look composed and confident.
- Your ethos (credibility) is enhanced.
- The audience has time to think about what you’ve just said.
- The focus of the audience is squarely on you.
- The audience is engaged.
Learning how to pause when you speak, and becoming comfortable with the silence, is one of the most important skills and that any public speaker can master.
I know that it is not easy to stand in silence in front of a group of people. The time feels almost unbearably long. But during that time, your connection with the audience will deepen for the five reasons stated above. Trust me, it is worth the effort.
If you want to know more about pauses, I have written several posts on the subject including this one. In it, I offer tips on when to pause and how to get more comfortable with pausing.
John, thanks for the reminder. Once on stage, in my enthusiasm for getting my message out, I too often neglect this vital strategy.
Even more, for the link to your previous post on the subject which contained Churchill’s speech. Powerfully delivered, especially considering the pressure he was under to deliver.
Thanks for the comment, Nathan. It is understandable. The adrenalin is flowing, we are excited and perhaps nervous, we want to get our message across, we know our material and out it all comes in a torrent. The speakers who can have the confidence to not say anything now and then are the ones who make an impact. It’s somewhat of a paradox that one of the best things you can do as a speaker is just shut up! But it’s true. Cheers!
Agreed. BTW I’m doing the event below this week. So if you’re planning to be in SV area this year, give me a heads up and it’s likely I can do the same with you.
DISTINGUISHED SPEAKER SERIES – BILL REICHERT – 5 FATAL PITCH MISTAKES
Thanks, Nathan. I am based in Geneva, Switzerland so 9 timezones is a bit much, even for something that good. But if my work takes me to the US this year, I will let you know for sure.
I liken pauses to whitespace on a page (or slide). Whitespace makes the content clearer and far more professional, and so do pauses.
Indeed. You need the space to be able to appreciate what is there. One technique that Winston Churchill used – and which I touch on in the second part of this post – was to write his speeches out like a poem. That way, it was easier for him to see where the pauses should go.
Well done. It was well worth the time taken to pause and… to read this blog post, and the one it’s linked to. A terrific reminder.
Cheers, Matt! Much appreciated.
John – I have been creating a program on cultivating gravitas for leadership presence. I teach it so I can learn it. I find myself saying that the deepest and wisest thoughts come from silence. Silence, the pause, allows one to dig deeply into one’s consciousness so that one’s most expansive thinking can emerge as speech.
Hi Sandra. Thanks for the comment. I couldn’t agree more. Best of luck with the program!
This is one of the most important things we – as a presentation consulting agency – teach people to use to better their presentation skills. It’s the same with music: the music isn’t just the notes, it’s the space between the notes that makes the music.
Absolutely, Arnout. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I said the very same thing in this post. Cheers!
As always John, spot on! Thx.