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The Power of the Pause

You may be making your first presentation or getting up in front of an audience for the hundredth time, but regardless of your situation, all great speakers know that projecting confidence will allow your audience to focus on your message, instead of focusing on you.

One simple way you can begin projecting confidence when you present is…with a pause.

A well-placed pause while you’re speaking shows your audience that you are secure in your presentation and in the information you are sharing. Pauses also allow you to punctuate your spoken words, giving your listeners clues as to when one phrase, one sentence, or one paragraph ends, and the next begins. So how can you use the pause effectively? Here are a couple of impactful ways you can use it when you present:

1.   Beginning your presentation

This is your opening moment, your chance to make a first impression. Stand up straight, plant your heels on the ground, square your body, smile and pause for two seconds before you start speaking. Draw your audience’s attention in and hold the space with total confidence.

2.   Asking a rhetorical question

Often times a question can be an effective way to engage your audience and maintain their attention. When you ask your audience a rhetorical question, pause after you ask it so your audience has time to think and reflect. This pause also sets off your answer, ensuring they are listening when you continue speaking.

3.   Speaking in bullet points

It’s a good idea to mix up your speaking style, which will help maintain your audience’s attention. You can use a pause to shift your style from speaking in full-length sentences to bullet points.

For example:

Here are some statistics that will interest you. (pause)

  • 6 million square feet of rentable office space

  • Rental rates of $10 per square foot

  • 70% uptake in 20 days 

4.   Creating tension

If you are sharing a story or anecdote as part of your presentation, you can use a pause to create tension and draw your audience in to what you are saying. Set your story up, and just prior to the dramatic point or climax, take a pause and then deliver your point — your audience will be all ears.

5.   Looking at your own slides

Use the pause whenever you need to look at your own slides. Stand sideways to the screen, gaze at your slide in silence, and THEN turn back to your audience. Of course you only speak when you are fully facing your audience. Those few seconds of quiet thought will send a message of tremendous confidence to your audience.

6.   Highlighting your words

When writing, we often use a set of dashes to offset important or explanatory information. The equivalent when presenting is using pauses. A pause, or two, depending on your speech, highlights information to your audience and illustrates its importance. For example, you might say: “Our three key crops (pause) rice, maize, and barley (pause) account for an overwhelming 43% of our sales.”

Employed judiciously, pauses are an effective way to project confidence and show your audience you are in control of your message.

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