One of my favorite shows on TV was Mythbusters. I love what they do and how they do it. They scientifically confirm or deny urban legends and myths in a fun way.
It got me thinking about some of the classic myths about presentations. Early in my speaking career, I received one of the worst bits of advice…
“When speaking in public, you need to ‘pause’ for dramatic effect.”
What the heck does that mean? Really. What the heck is that supposed to tell me? Did they mean pause for the sake of being dramatic? I’ve seen many speakers who thought they were being dramatic — and it was all too clear that they had an acting background. (I also have acting training in my background, but the audience shouldn’t notice it!)
We should not pause to make ourselves look good. That’s not that point. Unless you’re speaking to feed the ego…then, by all means, be more dramatic. Go for it, Shakespeare! (For give me if you do not know any better. This article is designed to enlighten you.)
Many speakers think that speaking is a monologue — meaning that a presentation is a one-way conversation. That’s more of a lecture. You speak, I listen. That may have seemed effective to your father as he was yelling at you to do your chores. But, while you were being ‘spoken to’ did you feel an uplifting sense of connection? I certainly didn’t. Did you want to hear more? Nope!
What were your thoughts then? LOL. OK, that was rhetorical. The truth is that the thoughts in the minds of the audience are what the presentation is all about.
When I studied the speeches of the World Champions who came before me, I realized that they “got it.” They completely understood that a powerful presentation was truly a dialogue. It was a conversation they had with the little voice in their head.
So, since it’s a conversation, the persuasive speaker needs to know what the audience is thinking — and when to shut up! We work so hard to get the audience to have thoughts, but it’s just as important to allow them time to think.
The true change occurs with the thoughts of the listener. We must strategically place our pauses in the moments that we want the audience to reflect. To think. For example, if you have my Fast-Start Program Coaching 101, you know that I teach people to use “you-focused” questions. As presenters, we must be aware of the answers to our questions. If we ask a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, a brief pause is appropriate. If we ask our audiences to reflect deeper into their memories, we must give them more time to go there and reflect. If we don’t, we are truly not there for the audience.
Many people are uncomfortable pausing. If you’re one of those people — congratulations, you’re human! My coach had me count three “heart beats” when I asked reflecting questions, just to give myself something to do while I wasn’t talking. As you build your pause ‘muscle,’ it will eventually get easier.
Don’t add a “dramatic” pause, instead add a ‘reflecting’ pause.
In my opinion… Add a dramatic pause: MYTH BUSTED!
What do you think? Please add your “pause” story on my blog. When did you realize how to actually use the pause properly? When was your myth busted?