I have been teaching presentation skills for years. What I notice time and time again is this:
Speakers dread pauses.
Audiences love pauses.
Why Do Speakers Dread Pauses?
Often, it’s because they feel that if they pause, they will seem boring. They may also worry that a pause signifies they have forgotten or just don’t know what to say. Speakers feel their pauses as a long, dead period of uncomfortable silence.
Why Do Audiences Love Pauses?
They have time to digest, visualise or apply to themselves what the speaker has just said. Or, they have time to imagine, predict or anticipate what is about to be said. They fill the silence with thought!
The bottom line is this: Your audience wants you to pause. It’s a gift of thinking time. So practise pausing more. Pausing is incredibly powerful!
When To Pause?
- Pause when you want them to digest and think
“We’ve got a great plan and we’re ready to start. The question is, how long do we give it if we don’t get results? … ”
“We’ve been having a great year, until this month. This is the first month we have not made a cent. …”
Now, avoid filling the pause. Just stay silent. Don’t look at them expecting an immediate answer. Just think with them. When they see you thinking, they have permission to think too.
- Pause to let them anticipate and predict
“With this package, everyone is going to get three things. …”
Now, just pause. They will start guessing what the three things may be, and by the time you start telling them, they will be dying to know if they were right.
“Last year we got seven new clients. This year, …”
Now pause. Even if you just give them 5 seconds of complete silence, they will start predicting what you are going to say, and they will enjoy it.
Think about it. Isn’t it true that when you’re reading, you often stop reading just to think about what you’re reading? We all need pauses when receiving new information! So, give your audience the gift of time to think. Give them pauses!