Silence is Golden: 3 Keys to Using Pauses Effectively in Public Speaking

by | Feb 3, 2017 | Public Speaking

When you first hear that you’re expected to make an hour-long speech, you might start to think of just how daunting that amount of time seems.

How could anyone possibly speak for an hour straight?

It feels overwhelming, especially when you think about having to present in front of dozens or even hundreds of people on top of having to come up with that much material. But, when you really break it down, public speaking is a lot like broadcast television. The program slot may be an hour, but the truth is: the pauses for commercial breaks make the actual content much shorter.

When you’re addressing a crowd, just remember that silence is golden, and keep in mind these three keys to using pauses effectively in public speaking.

Use Pauses in Public Speaking to Let Salient Points Sink In

If you rush through your speech, chances are, the majority of what you say will be forgotten. When you’re trying to make a real impact on your audience, it’s incredibly important to take pauses between points to let the most salient sentences sink in.

Especially if you expect people to take notes on your speeches to reflect on them later, you’ll need to slow it down. Leave enough room between your thoughts to allow for your audience to chew on the meaning of your words, so they can more fully digest them later.

Make Pauses Signifiers of Transitions in Your Speech

One of the worst things a public speaker can do is not to create adequate transitions between thoughts. It’s a surefire way to confuse an audience and leave them reeling by the end of your talk.

In order to avoid that kind of tizzy, make sure you sprinkle meaningful pauses in between the points in your speech. It may seem counterintuitive to stop speaking in the middle of a presentation, but it’s actually a remarkably effective way to signify that you’re about to move onto a new point.

Employ Pauses to Establish a Conversational Dynamic

When you’re speaking one-on-one with someone, do you speak in one continuous stream? No! Of course, you don’t. That would be absurd.

To establish a conversational dynamic with your audience, then, it’s imperative that you employ pauses between your thoughts. Let certain points sink in. Allow the audience to have a silent conversation with your speech. In the end, it will not only make the time fly by, but it will also calm your nerves to imagine that you’re just having a one-on-one convo with your audience (no matter how large the crowd is).

Someone holds a paper airplane with the sun glaring in the background.
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