To become a better speaker, find your pause button

Getting comfortable with pausing will make you a better speaker. Pausing allows you to present with impact, confidence and to pick up on the audience’s response to your material. It creates time and space and pulls everything together for you, with a blend of relaxed but intense elegance akin to that of the conductor of an orchestra, the coach of a sports team or the editor of a magazine.

Here are three reasons to work on your pauses, followed by three tips to get you started.

Increased confidence: When you pause you’ll feel more confident. Some presenters rush to the end of their presentation, almost as if they want it to be over as quickly as possible and relieved when it is. Is that fun? Probably not. You could go faster to make it skip by even quicker. Although you’ll become less effective as a presenter. Pausing enables you to slow down. You’ll feel calmer, which will improve your experience of the presentation. You’ll enjoy listening to you more, and so will your audience.

Increased understanding: When you pause, your audience will get what you’re talking about. Just by pausing, and holding yourself still, you will come across with a greater level of certainty and credibility. You’ll create an aura of intelligence. Your audience will understand your point because you’ve included space for them to absorb what you’re saying. They may still disagree with it. But it won’t be because they’re confused about what you mean.

Increased awareness: When you pause you’ll be able to notice more. What happens in the space created is that you get to take in what the audience is thinking and doing in response to your points. You’ll see who’s paying attention and who seems distracted. You’ll pick up on the energy in the room. All good stuff for responding to questions later on or proactively addressing areas of doubt.

So that’s three reasons to add pauses into your presentation.How do you do it?

It’s about three things: positioning the pause, remembering to pause and practicing the pause.

Position the pause: Decide where to pause. Create a text document of what you’re going to say. Place a pause at the end of critical points. It only need be a couple of seconds. Position them around the points that you want your audience to really get. They may be the points that you know will be most provocative or have the most impact.

Remember to pause: Create a written version of what you’re going to say. Then annotate it with a ‘/’ symbol at the point you want to pause at. Your text would look like this: “So how does it look so far? / Any questions? / What do you think? /

Practice your pause: Rehearse your presentation at least twice. Do a complete run through, with the pauses. When you get comfortable, accompany your pause by a glance around the audience. Start to become comfortable with scanning for their reaction.

Try it. It works for any situation where you’re in a dialogue with someone, from speaking to presentations to conversations. And for an opportunity to learn and practise your pausing, book onto my IDM Presentation workshop on 31st October, details here.


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