Someone I know was recently passed over for promotion, even with solid performance and achievements. It was a surprise to them, but I think I can guess why. It was probably the way they spoke. Typically their speech was a long, uninterrupted, stream of words, with few pauses, no spaces and barely enough gaps to draw breath. Now whilst I admire this person, I found listening to them hard work. It was like listening to a full page of text with no spaces, no paragraphs and barely any punctuation. With little verbal grammar to help the listener extract meaning, receiving their message required just too much mental effort. I, perhaps like others, switched off and the messages were lost
3 ways to enhance your impact with pauses
When I teach novice presenters, the suggestion most commonly offered to them is to slow down. One way to do this is through deliberate pauses. Pauses are one of the simplest, but most powerful verbal tools we can use when presenting or communicating. Here’s 3 key reasons why:
1. Pause for a Brain-Break
Pauses give the brains of your listeners chance to catch up and make meaning from your comments. Without pauses, you run the risk of overwhelming your audience, with the result that they mentally check-out. But just as important, deliberate pauses also give your own brain a few vital micro-moments of space to regroup, refresh and reorganise. In fact, many speakers use a deliberate pause to avoid saying a dreaded filler word; er, um, yeah, the thing is!
With pauses, everyone benefits. Your audience appreciates the spaces and you look (and perhaps feel!) like a more polished presenter
2. Pause for Attention
Another key reason to deliberately pause is to grab your audience’s attention. Creating a micro moment of suspense through a pause will often alert your audience and pull them out of their day dreaming or phone distraction. It doesn’t need to be a big dramatic reality TV length pause. Just a moment that is longer than expected, but slightly unexpected, should be enough
3. Pause for Presence
For me however, a really important reason to pause in a presentation or discussion, is to subtly enhance your executive presence. Think of a seasoned leader that you know. Do they speed up as they present, racing through their pitch because of nerves? Do they speak fast with no pauses, so that no-one else can get a word in? Or do they speak in a slower, more measured, more generous way, with gaps, pauses, even silences?
It does seem that as you move up the corporate ladder and earn the respect of others, you tend to get interrupted less from others when you speak. This deemed hierarchy gives you the the luxury of being able to slow down and pause, because your pauses are safe from the interruptions of others. Space is given to you. For those existing further down the corporate ladder where there’s more jostling for space, sometimes just stopping to draw breath can risk someone else jumping in, interrupting and taking over the airtime
So the speed with which you speak and the pauses that you create may be associated with your deemed degree of confidence and executive presence. Thus one way to deliberately increase both might be to practice pausing, slowing down and creating more space as your speak. Signifying to others your sense of presence and personal power
Mind the Gap!
How do you ‘do’ pauses? Well they’re easy. If a pause is verbal grammar, then when you deliver your presentation, simply stop and take a slightly longer than normal breath, where you would have a full stop or a new paragraph. This will give you the pause. If you’re not reading from notes, then practice pausing for a few moments after a key word, phrase or comment, to allow it the space to sink in
Many a seasoned presenter will pre-plan their pauses to ensure they are as effective as possible. I will often mark out the pause in my notes and practice delivering them, to make it all as automatic as possible under the stress of a presentation
The hardest part of pausing? Remembering to do them. So try scattering some deliberate pauses into your everyday conversations. The more familiar you are with using them, the easier it will be to remember to use them when presenting
Pauses aren’t rocket science. But they can be powerful, effective & influential
Put simply …
Need some help practicing your pauses?
Anxious or fearful of presenting or speaking up in meetings?
Presenting for the Petrified helps you overcome your fear of presenting; gently, virtually & psychologically safely