The last element of good verbal communication is the Pause.
It’s the last element of our verbal communication skills discussion, but it should be the first thing you do when reaching the lectern, or center stage, after the Master of Ceremonies introduces you.
Standing in silence before the audience and looking out and scanning the crowd conveys an aura of authority and confidence. Pause, almost so long the audience might start thinking something is wrong. (In fact, it’s a great time for a last moment of positive self-talk like, “I’m going to make this audience rock!”)
Finally, when you know they’re beginning to wonder – open your speech. This can be an extremely effective technique for capturing the audience’s attention immediately.
Many speakers, especially those who are inexperienced, make the mistake of memorizing their speeches word-for-word and then reciting them as quickly as possible, without stopping even to take a breath. An experienced speaker knows to Pause periodically to give the audience time to “catch up,” and to let the meaning of what he or she is saying sink in. They need time to search their memory banks to see where, what you just said, fits or doesn’t fit in. If the statement is profound enough, some in the audience will even repeat it to themselves in their own words.
Pauses can be powerful and they are very important.
When giving a humorous speech, you want to give the audience time to laugh at your joke without missing the next one!
Pauses separate thoughts. In general, you should pause periodically to allow folks to absorb the message you have delivered to that point.
A Pause also builds anticipation, and gets them wondering, “What’s coming next?”
Pausing after asking a question is also a great technique because it makes them think, and mentally involves them in your speech.
(However, don’t pause too long or the audience will think you either lost your place or don’t know what to say next.)
Pausing, for most speakers, is tough to do. We tend to want to fill that ‘dead space’ with noise. Often, a speaker will fill the silence with filler words like, ‘ah’, ‘you know’, ‘OK’, ‘like’ and others.
If you find yourself using these fillers, it’s a perfect time to catch your self and say – nothing!
If searching for a word while speaking, rather than utter, ‘Ummm’ – Pause. Don’t look down or up while pausing, but look at an individual and start talking, again, when the word or phrase comes to mind.
Practice pausing and breathing at the end of phrases where you’ve made a significant point. You’ll feel better and your audience will benefit, also.
Also, consider using the ‘Spontaneous Pause’. (It may only seem spontaneous to the audience because you’ve rehearsed it so well!) If you stop yourself part way into a statement, pause, then go in another direction, that next set of statements can be powerful.
As an example, in the closing of one of my talks, I say, “The next time someone gives you the opportunity to speak, (Pause) Check that statement. Don’t wait for the opportunity – Seek it out! Look for it at your . . . “
Claude Debussy, the famous French composer, said, “Music is the silence between the notes.”
That same analogy can be applied to speaking. Without a break, the delivery would be one long, continuous discourse without adequate time for the audience to take in and think about the message.
You do want them to “get” your message – correct? So …… Pause!