Silence is Golden!
And an important element of Speaking!
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!
About the Author
Fred E. Miller is a speaker, an international coach, and the author of the books,
“NO SWEAT Public Speaking!” and
“NO SWEAT Elevator Speech!”
Businesses, Individuals, and Organizations hire him because they want to improve their Networking, Public Speaking, and Presentation Skills.
They do this because they know:
Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.
They also know:
We perceive really great speakers to be Experts. We like to work with Experts.
He shows them how to: Develop, Practice, and Deliver Fantastic Presentations! with – NO SWEAT!
- Keynote Speaker
- Workshop Facilitator
- Breakout Sessions
- Personal and Group Public Speaking and Presentation Coaching
- Lessening The Fear of Public Speaking with – NO SWEAT!
- Crafting Your Elevator Speech, Floor by Floor with – NO SWEAT!
- Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities.
- We are All Self-Employed!
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, Podcast Channel, and connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook.
My books can be purchased on amazon.com.
“NO SWEAT Public Speaking”
Warwick John Fahy says
Great post Fred!
I totally agree. The ‘pause’ is very hard for business presenters to implement. The upside is that it is also the key to unlock an impactful delivery.
I believe that using a ‘pause’ can turn an average presenter to a excellent one.
All your readers would benefit from trying out the tips you suggested. Also, a good role model came from Jobs’ iPad product launch which we wrote up into a critique.(See point 5: Well Paced Speed and Great Use of Pauses) I have included the link for your readers below.
All the best,
The One Minute Presenter
iPad product launch: What Makes Steve Jobs a Great Presenter?
Fred E. Miller says
Warwick, (Pause) I totally (Pause) agree with your comments.
Your post on Steve Jobs, (Pause) Master Presenter, gives your readers lots of great ideas for improving their speeches!
Thanks for your comment!
Verbal Communication Skills. How to improve your verbal communication skills. … Tips On Improving Your Verbal Communication Skills.Our Verbal Skills Training will show you the other communication areas that can either support or detract from the meaning of our words.
There is great research to show that people value social skills at work more than they value job skills. Here’s a clear example: People would rather work with someone who is likable and incompetent than someone who is competent but a not likable . And when someone is a jerk, people start thinking the person is less competent, whether it’s actually true or not.
JM perry is Providing various ways to improve your Verbal Communication.it will improve your communication to your colleagues.www.jmperry.com
Fred E. Miller says
Good point, Joseph!
Communication is probably one of the greatest skills a person can possess.
One could be the premier authority on a subject, but if they can’t communicate that knowledge to others, their message will never be completely received by others.
Thanks for visiting!
Dr. Sean Lynch says
I love your thoughts on this. The pause is a useful tool in everything. Think of music, no pause between the notes, is just noise. In healthcare, there are times when you need and require intense attention, but then the body needs a pause to recover, regroup and heal. Like many of your posts, I would encourage us all to practice, sometimes taking longer “pregnant pauses” just to force ourselves to pause with no fillers. Do this in front of your regular groups and let them know you will be doing it as to get feedback and they don’t think you have lost it.
Keep up the good work.
Dr. Sean Lynch
Fred E. Miller says
Thanks for visiting and your comment, Sean.
Speakers feel they need to fill ’empty space’ by speaking.
This isn’t necessarily true. If we want the audience to Get IT! they need time to absorb the message and make associations in their own mental database to see how it does, or doesn’t fit.
Fred E. Miller says
Thanks for visiting.
thnx 4 those nice comments on this topic……………………..
You could definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.
Amelia Roberts says
Inside the top ten of my favorite articles, thankyou!
Cherie Eliot says
John Zimmer says
Great post, Fred. One of the most important things any speaker can do is learn when to say nothing!