7 Ways Silence Improves Your Presentations
When you’re developing a presentation, there’s no doubt that you give thought to the words you will use to convey your message. But how often do you consider when you’ll pause during your talks? My guess is seldom, if ever. Hopefully, that will change after you learn how the often-ignored pause can transform what would otherwise be a rambling monologue into an engaging and interactive presentation.
1. Pause at the beginning of your talk.
Taking three to four seconds before speaking allows you to initiate eye contact, establish confidence, and develop engagement with your audience. Do this for your next few presentations. It might seem awkward at first, but you’ll quickly see how effective this technique really is.
2. Pause after you share a point.
Give your audience time to internalize and digest salient information. You know what you’re saying and how it relates to your message; your audience does not. If you don’t pause, your listeners will be confused and either disregard what you said or try to figure it out and miss what you say next. Either way, you’ll lose them altogether.
3. Pause instead of using fillers.
Inserting fillers is prevalent because many presenters are uncomfortable with the silence and fill it with unnecessary sounds and words, including umm, ah, you know, and right. But it’s not the fillers that audiences find so irritating; it’s the lack of silence.
As you just heard, pausing allows your listeners to internalize and digest what you said. However, when you use fillers, you interrupt their thought process. Doing this once or twice won’t necessarily harm your presentation’s effectiveness, but when it becomes noticeable, it can be as unnerving as fingernails scraping a chalkboard.
Remember, people regularly complain about how often a presenter used fillers, but seldom complain about how often a presenter paused.
4. Pause for emphasis.
Pause before sharing a word, thought, or idea that you want to emphasize. This lets your audience lean in and listen, knowing they’re about to hear something noteworthy, exciting, or even shocking. To add even more significance, pause directly after saying it.
5. Pause after asking questions.
Asking questions – actual or rhetorical – is a powerful yet subtle tool for influencing your audience. But for this to be most productive, you must provide a sufficient amount of time for your listeners to answer the questions in their minds. When you don’t allow this time, your questions serve little purpose. When you repeatedly skip this time, you risk annoying your listeners and consequently losing them.
6. Pause when advancing to another slide.
It is natural to start referencing a slide immediately. However, this is ineffective. Instead of asking the audience members to listen to you and decipher the slide simultaneously, pause for two or three seconds. This gives them sufficient time to see and understand the slide. Then, when you begin speaking, the slide supports your words.
7. Pause to invite interaction.
Do you want to involve your listeners in your presentations? Then pause to invite them to insert a word or finish a sentence. You can make this invitation even more apparent by accompanying your pause with a gesture or other body language. Singers do this to perfection when they sing a line and then point the microphone to the audience, prompting the audience to sing the next line.
There you have it … seven opportunities to implement pauses in your upcoming presentations. Use them, and you’ll gain more confidence, and your listeners will experience higher levels of comprehension and retention. Because, as Mark Twain said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly-timed pause.”