I often talk about the value and the power of being silent when speaking. Silence, or the pause, or whatever you wish to call it is one of the most valuable tools that we can have when public speaking or presenting. It is multi-faceted, intelligent and is also a great recovery tool. Let me share with you some of the power that is contained in silence (pause).
- The silence allows you to breathe deeply and re-oxygenate your blood stream and your brain. Deep breathing in the lower part of the lungs while silent is an efficient way of breathing and is used by actors and opera singers. Nervous speakers or speakers that speak fast or use filler words, tend to use higher breathing, almost panting, at the top end of the lungs, where oxygen exchange is less efficient.
- Silence allows you to gather your thoughts if you have forgotten where you are in your presentation. Rather than mention that you have just forgotten what you were going to say, or that you have had a brain drain, or my mind has gone blank, simply pause, remain silent, look confident, smile and wait for your thoughts to recover.
- Silence allows your audience time to take in and digest what you have just said. Especially those key take home points. It is called the post pause. Say something powerful and then remain silent. The silence elevates the importance of what you have just said.
- Silence can demonstrate calmness and confidence as a speaker. Even if you are nervous, but you model comfort with silence, it makes you look calm and credible. This is one of the key steps in faking it until you make it.
- Silence can be used to punctuate your presentation and to transition between different points and aspects of your speech.
- Silence can be used to replace those filler words like uhm, ah, you know, etc etc. Rather than use a filler word, which you are using to buy a little time and gather your thoughts, simply pause. This sounds confident and credible and is a better way of gathering your thoughts.
For me, being comfortable with silence is one of the key tools that every speaker should learn to use. And I enclose some quotes from other people who also think that silence is golden.
“Hospitality consists in a little fire, a little food and an immense quiet” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Well-timed silence is the most commanding expression” ~ Mark Helprin
“There are times when silence has the loudest voice” ~ Leroy Brownlow
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause” ~ Mark Twain
“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute” ~ Josh Billings
“Silence is the safety zone of conversation” ~ Arnold Glasow
So don’t be afraid of silence, don’t be afraid of the pause. Use silence to enhance and amplify what you are saying each time you present.