The Power of the Pause: An Excerpt from Demystifying Public Speaking

The pause, which universally creates fear in speakers when standing in front of an audience, can actually be a powerful asset. As a presenter your primary goal is to offer your listeners information in a clear, clean, and concise manner assisting them in receiving it easily, informatively, and specifically. The pause allows your listeners a beat to take in what you have just offered while giving you a moment to relish this shared transactional communication. As is anything you choose for another person, a pause is a gift you present your audience.

An involuntary pause often creates, in you, a sense of doom and is experienced as a loud thundering silence. Pausing becomes associated with missteps and eventually comes to have negative connotations. A planned pause is neither a span of dead air, a drop in energy, nor a disconnect from your listeners. Taking a pause unleashes you from your normal rigidity and tension. It lessens the usual restraints of nervousness, dry mouth, and self-consciousness commonly experienced when standing in front of an audience.

At first, planning pauses may seem alien to you. Quickly you will arrive at an understanding of the power and importance for pausing at the right moment. With time and practice the pause will evolve into one of your strongest allies in public speaking. Once you accept and comprehend the merits of the pause you will become a more highly skilled, enjoyable and comfortable public speaker.

A chosen pause is a valuable component in the planning of your presentation or speech. It is an active moment. As active and important as any of the words used to inform your listeners of your message. Choosing where to plant a pause in your presentation creates its effect, value and the strength of its silence. A pause adds stress or emphasis. Taking a breath and waiting to move forward brings importance to what you have just said. Pausing frees you to become aware of the reception by your listeners to your information.

The freedom to pause brings out latent aspects of your unique and individual personality. Aspects you had no idea you would need, use, or even care about when making a presentation. It brings together all the best of you in the moment and places you in control while offering you the ability to tap into all these previously unused facets of yourself. The combination of the power of the pause and your new and winning fully realized public persona creates for you a milieu where you feel as warm and in control as a host welcoming guests into your home for an evening’s entertainment.

A planned pause has a dual effect. As in any give and take two parties are involved. It brings you, the speaker into the moment and at the same time allows your listeners a moment to breathe, receive and comprehend the information just presented to them. A chosen pause frees both parties to take a mini-break. This moment of silence brings both you and your listeners together to move forward as one unit with refreshed energy. A pause breaks the intensity needed for both speaking and listening creating a moment of restfulness. This momentary halt will generate in your listeners a new surge of concentration and renewed interest in your material. By pausing you bring your audience into a focused moment directing them to hear your information. At the same time you will experience a new energy preparing you to dive into the next point in your talk.

Settling into a pause, by both enjoying and relishing the moment, relieves you of the usual public speaking fears and self-conscious nervousness. The pause aides you in understanding that you are the offering messenger of the information and your listeners the receiving agent. You come to experience that you are the conduit and neither the center of attention nor focal point of your presentation. This knowledge puts you in control of your material and its delivery. It opens a variety of choices for penetrating your listener’s psyche. You gain an insight into your audiences’ grasp of the material.

Choosing to pause creates a silence for you to experience your audience’s involvement in your offered information. As your confidence grows in the power of the pause you will awaken to the voluntary and involuntary reactions from your audience. Heads nodding in agreement and appreciative smiles inform you they are hearing and comprehending what you are putting before them. Even heads shaking in disapproval are reactions. Your listeners may be in disagreement but they are receiving and understanding your offerings. This pause along with your ability and willingness to live in this moment brings you a newfound freedom when standing in front of an audience. In the pause you will begin to listen to them breathe as one. This union assures you the value of your information is being heard, comprehended, and accepted.

A major asset of planting a pause is the variety it brings to your talk. Instinctively and organically your pace will begin to adjust. You will find yourself alternating tempos without even thinking about it. Coming to a pause you will fmd yourself quickening or slowering your tempo making the pause resonate with greater power and importance. Beginning again, you will pick up speed bringing your audience along with you to a steady pace where both of you are comfortable hearing and speaking. Using the pause for stress and emphasis without raising your voice or underlining any of the words or phrases adds a subtleness creating importance without blatantly calling attention to the point. A moment of silence can stress the importance of the words around the pause more than volume or emphasis.

Choosing to pause offers numerous benefits in helping you master the art of public speaking. It creates the appearance of self confidence, strength, and leadership from your audience’s perspective. Taking a pause brings you and your listeners to a halt putting you in control of its length creating an involvement between presenter and audience. Choosing to pause relieves you of the fear of the involuntary pause. With use and practice you will grow into a strong, smart, and self-confident speaker who looks forward to enjoying the time in front of your audience.