Have you ever heard the statement about public speaking, “You must pause for effect?” What do they mean by that? Just to be dramatic? So?
The more I studied the World Champions who came before me, I the clearer I understood what speaking was all about. Speaking, when done properly, is a two-way conversation. The conversation is between the speaker and the little voice inside each audience member’s mind.
Ever had a conversation with someone who was in a hurry, and obviously not listening to you? Didn’t they come across as rude? Well, that’s how most speakers present. They are not allowing the listener to digest and engage in the conversation. They usually pause only long enough for their own personal comfort, but they seldom take into consideration that the listener needs time to “think.” Doesn’t that just seem selfish? It is. I used to present that way myself.
So, what can you do about it? Think about it this way. Pausing for effect is just to be dramatic. We are not acting. We are having a conversation. Whenever you ask your audience a question, consider this, “If this was an actual conversation, how long would they need to think and answer?” If you speak too soon, you’re ‘stepping’ on their thoughts, and breaking your connection with them. For example, if you’re asking a quick yes or no question, it can be a short pause. If your audience needs to think back to a time when they ‘felt’ a certain way, the pause needs to be longer.
Think about it this way…
Don’t pause for effect, pause so they can reflect.
It is not about us, as the presenter, or how comfortable we are — it’s about the time the audience needs to reflect. If we don’t allow them that time, we’re being rude!
The beautiful principle for all presenters to understand, is that pausing is a muscle. You can’t instantly be more comfortable with it. You can grow into it, but you need to keep working at developing your pause muscle. If you watch my World Championship speech, you’ll see in the middle of one of my longest pauses while face down on the stage, my back heel noticeably twitched. That’s because I was very uncomfortable with the length of that pause. In my head, I was battling with my fear of the silence. I was forcing myself to listen to my coach. Knowing that I had to let my audience reflect, I was hearing his voice, “One, one thousand… two, one thousand… three, one thousand… OK, Darren, now you can get up!”
It took me time to develop my pause muscle. Knowing you need to pause and actually doing it are two different things. Only one of them helps your audience digest your message. Will you — more often, and long enough — pause… so your audience can reflect?
Share your thoughts here on my blog on how you do this…
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
P.S. Here’s more proof of the power of the pause in reflection. Just last week, someone posted on my blog about how much a presentation from 10 years ago had impact:
“I will always remember when you, Mr. LaCroix, talked to us in Springfield, MA at a District 53 Spring Conference back in the early 2000s about your WCPS speech and “What do you do when you fall on your face? …Have YOU ever… stayed down… too long?” That was such a powerful epiphany for me that I will always be grateful to you for it. Thank you for all that you do to keep US inspired and out of the doldrums!” ~ Betesi
Another LAUGHING Success Story!
Jeffrey Duquesne recently invested in Get More Laughs by Next Week. He went through the exercises and it’s working! Congrats, I love to see people apply proven principles! If it works once, it will work again. Jeffrey created a joke that will yield laughs every time he speaks:
“My father was a master mechanic… my mother, a public accountant…
That means, as a Toastmaster, in five-to-seven minutes, I can fix your books.”
~ Jeffrey Duquesne
Congrats, Jeffrey! Keep ’em laughing!
Excellent advice, Darren. While I pause I scan my audience, looking for that Aha! moment in their eyes, a nod of the head, some cue that they got the point which is then my cue to move on.
I am competing in my Division contest today–I will use your tip in my speech. In my Toastmaster club I am known for the pause–in my speech I have a couple of questions that the audience needs time to answer in their heads. I will use the pauses there.
In my last run through this week, someone in the audience gave me a valuable piece of feedback–she was transported back to a similar situation in her life. Asking people after your speech is another key piece of using pauses–how did the pauses land for them?
Pausing is just as important in your speech as the words. As you say, it lets the audience digest what you just said and lets them catch-up. Especially if there is humor in your speech.
When I won the District 54 Humorous Speech contest, the pauses in my speech were strategically inserted at first, then were naturally inserted as the audience reacted. That’s why you have to allow for this time in your speech. Practice your speech with the pauses inserted.
Observe a good stand-up comedian and where they put pauses in their routine. Without pauses, audiences would miss half the jokes because they’re still laughing at the last one.
Once again you bring new light and insight to the oneness needed for complete communication
Darren ………………………. For me ……… I don’t really want to practice something unless I know why it’s worth practicing. ………………………………………….. In this blog …… you “made” me understand the idea that “A speech is not a monologue …… It’s a dialog ……..”
For me the thing that clerified things like “Always ask yourself what the audience is thinking” was this line: “The conversation is between the speaker and the little voice inside each audience member’s mind”
I meant the ……………….. s to be pauses.
Maybe using new paragraphs would also work for this.
Thanks for the great article.
Peace and Joy,
Dick Brandt – Minneapolis (Where the summer sun just came back to our city)
This article helps us make sense of this quote: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!” ~Artur Schnabel
Silence is the canvas that the speaker paints on …. and we know, that in art the “white space” is as important as the spaces where the paint is.
This helped me better understand the WHY to the pause.Gives pause a real PURPOSE and not a technique to be used.
There is a saying in the selling profession that goes, “once a buying question is asked.Stop talking.
If you speak before the client processes the answer and is ready to speak, YOU LOSE THE SALE”
Most important part of sales presentation is the silence( pause) that comes after the question.
If you speak to soon you run the risk of LOSING the audience.
The pause in the presentation could well be the most important part of the presentation.