What happens when a speaker pauses for a few seconds?

First, let’s talk about what doesn’t happen.

    • The audience does not think that you’ve forgotten something.
    • The audience does not hear your heart beating.
    • The audience does not 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?

    • You look composed and confident.
    • Your ethos (credibility) is enhanced.
    • The audience has time to think about what you’ve just said.
    • The audience focuses on you.
    • The audience is engaged.

All things considered, I’d say that learning how to pause when you speak, and becoming comfortable with the silence, is something worth doing … wouldn’t you?

Photo courtesy of Robert Scoble on Flickr

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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21 Responses to What happens when a speaker pauses for a few seconds?

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  7. Sander Reijn says:

    As always John, spot on! Thx.

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  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. mattgold44 says:

    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.

  12. I liken pauses to whitespace on a page (or slide). Whitespace makes the content clearer and far more professional, and so do pauses.

    • John Zimmer says:

      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.

  13. Nathan Schor says:

    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.

    • John Zimmer says:

      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!

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