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Panic to Powerful Presentations- How To Use Pause for Impact

Person with finger over lips for silence

The Power of Pause

Read time 2.5 mins

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain

On Tuesday last, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was asked to comment on Donald Trump’s reaction to the unrest in the US following the death of George Floyd last week.

Trudeau’s reaction was a pause.

A very long pause.

21 seconds of silence.

Pause is a very powerful public speaking tool.

Pause is a very powerful public speaking tool Click To Tweet

In this blogpost, I will share 7 reasons why you should use pause when presenting.

7 Reasons to Use Pause when presenting

  1. It grabs people’s attention

When you are introduced as a speaker, instead of starting to speak straight away, try a pause for 3-5 seconds. The audience will be attentive, waiting to hear what you have to say.

Alternatively, try pausing during your presentation before you make an important point. The surprise silence will help the audience focus their attention on what you say.

  1. It builds anticipation

Have you ever noticed how there is a long, drawn-out pause before the winner of the Oscars, or Strictly Come Dancing, or some other show is announced?

The pause adds to the audience anticipation. Use it to your advantage in your presentation.

The pause adds to the audience anticipation Click To Tweet
  1. It adds drama

The pause contrasts with the rest of your speech or presentation.

Imagine that you have been telling a story when you use the line “We waited three long days to get the test results”

Now imagine saying the line “We waited three….. long….. days…. to get the test results.” See the difference? 

  1. It allows you time to gather your thoughts

Perhaps you momentarily lose your train of thought. Or perhaps you have been asked a complex question in the Q&A session.

Pausing allows you time to think before continuing to speak. If you watch the video of Justin Trudeau, you can see how he almost speaks, but stops himself, during the 21 seconds. He worked hard to create an answer that he believed was appropriate.

  1. It allows your audience time to absorb your message

We are sometimes so familiar with our presentation that we forget that it is new to the audience. Pausing allows them time to reflect on what you have said and absorb your message. You could even prepare them for the thinking time by saying “Think about that for a moment” – and pause.

Pausing allows your audience time to absorb your message Click To Tweet
  1. It reduces filler words

When we pause, it slows us down. When we slow down, we are less likely to use filler words like “um”, “ah” “so” and “like”.

  1. It demonstrates confidence

Have you ever noticed how some people are uncomfortable with silence? Instead, try “owning” the silence by being calm, composed and in control. A smile helps too!

It can be difficult at first to get comfortable with pause. When you are at the top of the room, or on a stage, the audience expects you to speak. But when you master the pause, you will discover that it  will be a powerful tool in your public speaking toolkit.

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