The Speaker’s Pause
“No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”– Mark Twain, American humorist, lecturer, and writer
You may be uncomfortable with silence. But, on the other hand, you may feel the need to be talking or listening to someone all the time.
There is power in silence while you are presenting. I call it the speaker’s pause.
Below are three benefits of using the speaker’s pause in your presentations:
Brings Attention to Your Speaking Point
Have you ever noticed how you concentrate more when someone talking to you changes how they speak?
The speaker’s pause is one way to change how you speak. Unfortunately, even experienced speakers sometimes fail to take advantage of the speaker’s pause.
The speaker’s pause can dramatically affect your audience, like varying your speaking pace, the pitch of your voice, or your gestures.
The late Paul Harvey used the speaker’s pause at the end of his daily radio shows. He used to say at the end of his show “. . . and that
In addition to bringing attention to your speaking point, the speaker’s pause is also helpful in getting back your audience’s attention if it is wavering.
You may find during your presentation two or more people are talking. You want them to stop talking and start listening to you. This is the time to use the speaker’s pause.
The people hear your drone in the background while they are talking. If you apply the speaker’s pause, usually they will immediately know something has changed, stop talking and turn their attention to you. Try this next time you find two or more people talking during your presentation. It works like a charm.
So, apply the speaker’s pause to bring attention to your speaking point and significantly reduce talking amongst your audience.
When a jogger pauses their run, they are taking a brief rest to recharge. Likewise, you and your audience also need pauses to rest and recharge, especially if your subject is complex and your presentation is relatively long.
Allows the Audience to Digest What You Have Said
You need to give your audience occasional breaks in your presentation to digest what you have said. The speaker’s pause allows your audience to digest your words, especially if you talk fast.
By the way, if you talk fast, purposely learn to speak a bit slower. You may talk fast because you know what you are going to say. Your audience does not.
Below are some examples of how you might use the speaker’s pause to allow your audience to digest what you say:
“Today, we discussed the steps in writing a non-fiction book. The hardest obstacle to overcome is not to evaluate what you write until you have finished your latest book draft. You will slowly progress through your book until you have written the final draft. You will then stop and say
‘I am a writer.’”
“Ladies and gentlemen, today I have told you the story of someone who never gave up. He encountered many obstacles others would view as career-ending. But this person never gave up. He even thought someday he could stand up in front of an audience and speak. Who is that person? That person
is in front of you now!”
“The ship rolled violently captive to the thundering waves. She did all she could to keep the ship upright through the storm. At times, she thought, this is it. Could her life be ending this way? But, her persistence in steading the ship paid off.
She left the storm behind, embarked on a glassy ocean, and thanked her lucky stars.”
So, apply the speaker’s pause to bring attention to your speaking point and allow your audience time to digest what you have said
The speaker’s pause also allows you time to gather your thoughts before going on to the next part of your presentation.
Allows You to Gather Your Thoughts
One of the questions I am asked by inexperienced and some experienced speakers is, “Sometimes I forget what I want to say in a presentation. How can I remember what to say next?”
Nothing can make you remember what to say in your presentations more than practicing your presentation many times. As Brian Tracy says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make permanent. As your presentation goes in practice, it will go in the actual presentation.
This being said, just like your audiences need a break during your presentation, you, as the speaker, need breaks to mentally review what you have said and remember what to say next.
From many decades of presenting and viewing others present, if you get confused about what to say, your audience will appreciate your presentation more if you pause for a few seconds, regroup your thoughts and then continue your presentation.
So, apply the speaker’s pause to bring attention to your speaking point, allow your audience time to digest what you have said, and gather your thoughts before going on to the next part of your presentation.
The speaker’s pause is a powerful way to present.
Don’t leave home without it!
Call to Action
In your next presentation to
Bring attention to your speaking point
Allow your audience time to digest what you have said
Gather your thoughts before going on to the next part of your presentation
“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, and philosopher
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”