Let’s Pause for a Moment
“People who know what they are talking about do not need PowerPoint.” – Steve Jobs
In this fast-paced world of ours, we rarely have time to pause. However, a speaker that does not use pauses is not using the full speaker’s “toolbox.”
Using pauses in your presentations is good practice for three very good reasons: (1) pauses allow your audience to digest your information, (2) pauses allow you to reorganize your thoughts, and (3) pauses draw your audience to you.
Pauses Allow Your Audience to Digest Your Information
Some of you might remember an actor named John Moshitta, also known as “Motomouth” who is best known for his rapid speech deliver as evidenced by a 1981 ad for FedEx. Once you get past the opening ad, you will notice there are no pauses in John’s speech. Of course, this is an extreme case, but it does make a point. Speaking without pausing is very hard to follow for your audience. View the video. It is a hoot!
When you do not use pauses in your speaking, the words can eventually sound like one long thought that is too complicated to decipher. If it is one thing you do not want your audiences to have trouble with, it is the purpose and main points of your presentation.
When you work out in the gym, you take short rest periods to recover. Your audiences need to take a short rest periods between your thoughts to recover and process your information. When I go to mass, I always read the readings along with the lectors. I watch to see if they pause slightly after commas and semicolons and pause more firmly after periods. These punctuation marks have a purpose. They make it easier for the audience and the reader to digest the information in the reading.
Pauses certainly help your audiences digest the information in your presentation. They also allow you to reorganize your thoughts before you utter your next words.
Pauses Allows You to Reorganize Your Thoughts
We have all heard speakers speak ahs, ums, and every other non-comprehensible sound that a human being can utter. Why do you think this is so? It is because the speakers mind has not decided what to say, but the speaker feels he or she has to say something. We Americans are particularly uncomfortable with silence when we are talking one-on-one or to an audience.
There is nothing wrong and, in fact, preferable to stop talking as a speaker if your thoughts are not complete as to what you are going to say next. I just went over 30 years as a Toastmaster and I still have to be vigilant about watching that I do not add verbal fillers when I am speaking.
Now, just because you are taking a pause to collect your thoughts, it does not mean your gestures have to stop also. Gestures provide a rich complement to your speaking. So, don’t be afraid to stop talking even in the middle of your presentation. You will be glad you took the break.
So, now we know pauses in your speaking provide your audience the “breathing room” to digest what they are hearing you say and seeing you do while also providing you a “recovery period,” even if brief, to collect your thoughts and move on with your presentation. There is another great benefit of using pauses in your speaking – they draw your audience to you.
Pauses Draw Your Audience to You
You’re sitting there in the audience listening to the speaker drone on. You may be daydreaming about what you are going to do this weekend or thinking of what you will do tonight when you get home or about the big game you will be watching tomorrow. Then, all of a sudden, the droning stops. What is the natural question you have? It probably is, “Why did the speaker stop talking?” You are immediately drawn back into the talk. You are looking at the speaker, the audience, and wondering why there is a pause.
The pause can be used periodically throughout your presentation to draw the audience back into your talk. However, if you find your audience losing focus on your presentation, think seriously about shortening your presentation on the fly.
There are wildly different opinions among speakers as to how many pauses you should use in your presentations. This may sound like a flippant answer, but pauses should be used any place in your presentation where it makes sense.
This being the case, there is a fairly wide consensus that you should “sprinkle” pauses throughout your presentation and not leave them until the end. If your audience feels like you will use another pause, they will be waiting for it and, by default, will focus better on your presentation.
So, what have you learned about pauses? You have learned pausing periodically while you speak provides your audience the “breathing room” to digest what they are hearing you say and seeing you do. Pauses also provide you the “recovery period,” even if brief, to collect your thoughts and move on with your presentation. Finally, using pauses draws your audience to you, which is always a good thing.
When you first start using pauses, they may seem awkward. However, as you practice pauses in strategic parts of your presentation, they will become a natural part of your speaking. Brian Tracy says this about practicing for your presentations. He says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.”
Use pauses and you and your audience will be able to follow your presentation which is always important!
“Pause regularly when you speak. You’ll feel calmer and in control.” – ThinkConfidence.com
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