Thursday, October 26, 2017

11 things you can do with a pause in your speech

I sometimes think the simple pause is among the most overlooked yet versatile tools in the public speaking arsenal. Short and silent, it's easy to overlook.

Pauses, if chosen and used wisely, can add much to your next speech, talk, or presentation. Here are 11 things you can do with a pause in your speech. How many have you tried?
  1. Recall what you want to say, without blurting out "I forgot..." and breaking your and the audience's concentration.
  2. Let us hear your lists and sentences. A brief one-beat pause every time your script has a comma between items in a list, and a two-beat pause when there's a hard stop to a sentence, will slow you down a little and let us hear what you are saying.
  3. Replace an um or a word you overuse. There is nothing wrong with the totally normal um, but if you are trying to avoid using it too frequently, try a pause and a mental, not verbal, um. Ditto any word your listeners have pointed out is overused in your presentations.
  4. Let your applause finish. If your talk is being recorded, this helps make sure your next line will be captured without claps drowning it out.
  5. Ditto the audience's laughs. If you've landed a successful bit of humor and you get laughs, a pause lets them finish before you launch into the next bit.
  6. Signal a switch in tone, topic, or direction. Pausing between two disparate parts of your talk can tell the audience something new is next.
  7. Conquer dry mouth by gently biting your tongue a time or two to produce saliva. Try it--it's a tip from operatic soprano Luciano Pavarotti, which I got from a makeup artist who heard him sharing it.
  8. Add emphasis. A pause before...during...or after something you wish to emphasize can be a powerful verbal tool in a talk. Try pauses at different intervals and plan them during your practice, not on the fly.
  9. Stop yourself from crying. Shut your mouth--so you don't take in too much air and prompt a sob--and breath through your nose, and wait. If your talk is on an emotional topic, the audience will understand the pause, and they'll be with you.
  10. Give the other person a break in the action (yours) so they can talk. If you rush to fill all available space--particularly in Q&A or in a conversation or negotiation--you'll never find out what the other person has to say. Pausing lets them get a word in edgewise. This is especially important in media interviews, but also when you are conversing with someone for whom your language is their second language--they need pauses to think and frame a response.
  11. Start a thoughtful response to a question. There's a three-part formula to answering questions: Pause. Answer. Stop. The pause allows you to hear the complete question, rather than make assumptions before the questioner is done speaking, and buys you time to formulate an answer.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Dr. Case)

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