“The quicker I get the words out the quicker I can get off stage”. “I have always spoken fast and there is no way I can slow down my speech”. “How can I make my speech more interesting?” These are all questions that I am asked when coaching for effective public speaking and presentation skills. The answer or solution to these questions is to use the power of silence, also known as the power of the pause.
One of my key call to actions in all my effective public speaking workshops is that “you need to get comfortable with silence”. Silence or the pause can have a great impact on your presentation and how you are perceived. Let me share with you 4 ways in which you can make the pause or silence work for you.
- The Pre Pause
When you take a long pause before saying something then you are elevating the importance and significance of what you say next. “If you only take one thing away from today – long pause – that is ..…….(these are the golden words). So use the pre pause to heighten and elevate the importance of your key messages.
- The Post Pause
If you take a long pause after saying something important, then you are allowing people to absorb your information and take in in cognitively. A common mistake is to say something important and then keep speaking before listener has had timed to full process it. So when you have said something important, significant or a little complex, just pause (long pause) after saying these words and allow the audience time and silence to cognitively process what you have just said. The post pause allows time for things to sink in.
- Create suspense
When you pause before revealing the answer, the solution or the end of the story, you create suspense. “So you will never guess what happened next. – long pause -………..” then the reveal. Use the pause to create suspense in your presentation.
- Grab attention
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”. When you pause and remain confident the audience is more likely to pay attention to you. The speaker who speaks fast, with little pausing will tend to lose their audience. The pause acts like punctuation and enable you to put variation and interest in your speech, thus grabbing greater attention. Pausing at different places in your speech and for different durations all add to your speech and grab attention and create tension.
As public speakers we all need to learn to use the art of the pause. It is one of the simplest things to do – say nothing and remain silent – yet it can have a profound and positive effect on your presentation, your message and how you are perceived by your audience. Get comfortable with silence and the use of the pause.
If you would like to find out more about effective public speaking and presentation skills, I am running a series of workshops in Darwin from the 22nd to 23rd of October 2018: Assertive Communication Skills Workshop on 22 October, Effective Communication Skills on 22 October, Difficult Conversations on 23 October and Thinking and Speaking Off the Cuff on 23 October.