Pausing is one of the most underutilized tools in public speaking, yet it is one of the most valuable. A good presentation – and powerful audience engagement – requires more than just words. Pauses are powerful.
Pausing helps to process information.
Pausing is important for everyone in attendance, the speaker included. A short pause allows for the speaker to collect their thoughts, ensure they are not rushing the presentation, and effectively transition to the next point. At the same time, it allows the audience to reflect on what has just been said and digest the information they have been given. Without pauses, a presentation can become monotonous and overwhelming.
Pausing attracts attention.
Turn on your television and select almost any channel. From announcing results during prominent award shows to delivering devastating news, you’ll find dramatic pauses used as a tool to attract and sustain attention. The moment someone stops talking, the audience knows something has changed. Adding a pause to a presentation encourages the audience to remain tuned in and draws back their attention if it has wandered.
Pausing eliminates unnecessary fillers.
It is a habit to fill silence with non-words, such as “uh,” “uhm,” and “so,” but these utterances have no value. They communicate nervousness and unpreparedness, and they suggest a lack of overall confidence when presenting. Pausing is better than the use of verbal fillers, but it takes practice to substitute a pause for noise. This can feel unnerving to you if you are unaccustomed to it. Remind yourself of the many benefits of a carefully timed pause.
Pausing is powerful.
Most of what you say is not communicated through words. Nonverbal communication plays a key role in every presentation. What you’re communicating should be designed to elicit emotion and pausing provides space for the appropriate reaction. Whether you’re striving for laughter or tears, your audience never has the opportunity to process your message if there is no pause.
In any situation, you’re often more likely to be heard when you say less, and a pause amplifies the words that you have so carefully chosen. Pausing demonstrates confidence, demands interaction, and commands attention. When preparing for your next speaking event, consider the value of pausing and how you can use this tool to your advantage. As the old adage goes, silence is golden.