Actor Sir Ralph Richardson said “The most precious things in a speech are pauses. A pause will fill the void, capture attention; it will punctuate, illuminate and build the tension in a speech”
Resist time pressure, take your time and don’t speak until you are ready, is some of the best advice that I can give to anyone who is nervous when public speaking, or who is just starting in their public speaking journey.
I often see speakers rush to the front and begin speaking immediately, sometimes beginning before they have taken the lectern or centre stage and faced the audience. I see speakers respond to questions by going immediately into a response and then finding that they have lost their way, or they are unsure how to answer the question.
When speaking or responding to questions, smile, take your time, pause make eye contact and then begin to speak. If you need more time to organise your thoughts to respond to a question, then thank the person for their question and restate the question or paraphrase it so that you have it clear in your mind and the audience is now clear what the question was. This buys you a little more time and you can identify your viewpoint and work out how you are going to structure your response. Another situation where I also use pause, is when my mind goes blank, or I lose my way. I just pause, make eye contact, wait for my thoughts to return and start speaking. Sometimes I forget a point, but the audience does not know I have lost my way, they just think that I have paused for effect and to create meaning and suspense.
So resist time pressure and don’t be afraid to pause.