Using pauses during a public speech or presentation is an important way to engage the audience and to deliver your message effectively.
A lot of us fail to use pauses in the right manner and therefore we throw our audience off and lose their engagement throughout the presentation.
Pausing is something that we hate to do and something that we find very difficult during a presentation. Why is this the case and how can we effectively use pauses?
Why do we hate pauses?
When we pause during our everyday conversations we are indicating that someone else can begin talking. So we naturally use filler words – “umm” and “err” and “you know” – if we need to show that we have not yet finished speaking.
But the audience of your presentation is not going to talk back. These filler words are actually going to distract from the message that you’re trying to deliver.
So here are my twelve tips on how you can effectively use pauses during your public speech or presentation.
Tip#1: Recognise your filler words and phrases
Recognising when you’re saying “umm” and “err” and other filler words is the most important part to using pauses effectively.
Filling our pauses with words will feel and sound awkward and will prevent you from using pauses comfortably and effectively. Understanding when we use these filler words and removing them from our vocabulary will open up the opportunity to pause and create a better presentation.
Tip#2: Plan your pauses
Plan your pauses as you create your speech outline.
You could simply write (pause) to indicate when you want to pause during your speech. Planning your pauses in advance will help you use them in the right spots and use them effectively.
Tip#3: Pause to maintain your pace
Pauses are great if you feel like you’re talking too fast and can help you to maintain your pace.
Pausing for even half a second can calm you down and start to bring you back to a regular pace. This is turn will help your audience to understand and follow your message.
Adding one pause will get you more comfortable in adding further pauses. You’ll be able to maintain a constant speed of your presentation and you’ll avoid speaking too fast as many nervous speakers tend to do.
Tip#4: Pause if you lose your spot
Many people lose their spot and immediately panic. Sometimes they’ll even announce to their audience that they are lost.
Never do this. Instead calmly pause and give yourself a second to think. Then continue your presentation from where you left off.
Revealing to the audience that you’ve lost your place will make them feel like you’re not respecting their time. But pausing will allow you to calm down and give the crowd time to think.
Remember that they’re not consistently focussed on you. They’re living in their own heads and thinking about their own things. They likely won’t notice if you pause for a moment to find your place and calm your nerves.
Tip#5: Pause at your commas
A comma is a good time for you to pause.
Simply look at your speech in written form. If it would have a comma, why not pause?
Tip#6: Pause at the end of your sentences
The end of a sentence forms a natural point in your presentation where you can pause for a moment and then continue on.
A pause symbolises that you have finished your sentence and that you are now moving on to another one.
Tip#7: Pause at the end of your paragraphs
We can use short or longer pauses to symbolise when we’ve finished a paragraph.
These pauses indicate that we’re now moving on to another point or to a completely different topic. Pausing here will get your audience in the correct mind frame and make sure that you maintain their attention.
Tip#8: Pause for emphasis
Pausing for emphasis can be done in two ways.
You can pause between your words. This would be similar to: “Pause. For. Emphasis.”
Or you could simply pause for an extended period of time at the end of your important point.
Either way will direct your audience’s attention to the point that you just delivered. If you need to you can repeat the point and repeat the pause of emphasis.
Tip#9: Pause for rhetorical questions
“Who in this audience wants to be a millionaire?” Pausing here would be an important consideration.
Pausing at the end of a rhetorical question will give your audience time to think and time to answer the question in their own minds.
Tip#10: Start with a pause
Consider pausing for a moment at the start of your presentation rather than leaping straight into your speech.
You may want to use the power stance – legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and arms comfortably held at your side.
This pause will symbolise to the audience that you’re ready to start your presentation and will likely grab their attention.
This is not a practical tip for video presentations because people could easily click elsewhere if their attention is not immediately grabbed. But a pause at the beginning of your speech can be great when you’ve got the audience’s attention and their presence for a set amount of time.
Tip#11: Pause after a joke
Pausing after a joke will give people time to laugh or time to understand the punch line.
And don’t panic if no one laughs. Just end your pause and quickly move on.
Tip#12: Pause when you deliver a new slide
This is particularly useful if you’re using a PowerPoint or a Keynote Presentation or something similar.
Pause as you flick to a new slide. This will give people time to read that slide and absorb its message before you continue with your speech.
So there you have twelve tips about how to effectively use pauses during your public speech or presentation.
Please email me if you have any feedback or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.