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Public Speaking Learn The Power of the Pause

Eilidh Milnes

Why is pausing so important? 

The pause is probably the most under-used delivery technique. Nerves get the better of you and before you know it, you're speaking so fast that your audience is finding it hard to keep up. "Happi the Cat" needs his paws, your audience needs pauses! (Pun intended!)

A pause presents a rich opportunity to connect with your listeners and add drama to your message. Real power comes from allowing your listener to anticipate what's coming next. Pausing stimulates mental involvement. One of my clients harnessed the power of the pause to increase his presentation success rate by 50%!

A pause can completely change the meaning of what is being said. e.g. "You have two ears and one mouth... and they should be used... PAUSE... to eat!" This is not the ending the audience is expecting; it amuses them; keeps them involved. "You have two ears and one mouth and they should be used in this proportion," is what they expected i.e. listen twice as much as you talk.  A pause is a mental sorbet! 

Top tips speaking experts recommend:

Focus on your open and close. The beginning and end of are the most important part of your talk. At the start, people are forming opinions about you and your message. At the conclusion, you can include a call to action. State your key point in the first 90 seconds and reinforce it as you close.

Write out your speech. Practice, practice practice. Reduce your written speech to bullet points that are memory joggers. This process lets you reduce a long presentation to a few keywords. Colour code your talk notes, draw out in a logical or pictorial format, use stories to anchor your thoughts.

Practice aloud, always stand up. In an ideal world, you might be able to practice in the talk location. This adds to your comfort and confidence. However, it's not always possible. So give your talk to the four walls, the mirror, the piano or the cat! 
In short, preparation and planning promise a perfect performance... ... ... as does... a... pause...
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