6 reasons why pausing makes you a better presenter

presentation pause

Really confident speakers pause… a lot! They tend to speak in shorter sentences, use less words and therefore have more impact.

Their silence speaks volumes.

Not so confident speakers tend to replace full stops with the word “and”.

They make a point – then, instead of pausing, they add the word “and” which results in them continuing to the next sentence, or point without so much as a whisper of a pause, and it reduces their impact and they find themselves speaking in long rambling sentences, much like this one and it is quite annoying and seriously reduces their impact.

Inserting a full stop, and a pause, has much more impact.

Martin Luther King’s, “I have a dream” averages at just 106 words per minute. You should aim to average no more than 120 words a minute, or 2 words a second, for real impact. Remember, this is an average, so it allows plenty of time for pausing.

When we write we use commas, semi-colons, full stops and even new paragraphs to break up our content and make it meaningful.  Why don’t we punctuate our presentation in the same way?

There are immense benefits to using this powerful presenting tool, here are just a few:

1) Shows you are in control and not afraid of silence.

Having the confidence to stand or sit, in front of a group of people and say absolutely nothing, is very impressive.

2) Helps you reduce the filler words (ems, ahs etc.) as you replace them with the silence.

A tip here is to actually press your lips gently together when you pause.  This prevents those dreadful filler words from slipping out.

The odd em or ah is not a hanging offence.  In fact, in can make you come across as more human.  However, when there is masses of them, it does become very distracting and can make you sound less confident.

3) Lets your audience digest what you have said.

When you are delivering a presentation, you are familiar with the content.  Maybe your audience are not quite as familiar.  You need to remind yourself that they have never heard these exact sentences before.

Especially when delivering technical or figure heavy material, it is terribly important to drip feed your sentences, so that your audience have a better chance of absorbing your message.

4) Allows you time to formulate an answer to a question.

If you have been pausing regularly during your presentation – when it comes to answering questions, you won’t feel compelled to jump in quickly with the answer.

If you get a curved ball (don’t we all dread them!) and you need to take an extra long pause, it is not nearly as noticeable as it would be if you had not been pausing previously.

5) Lets your mind catch up with your mouth and vice versa.

Silence allows you time to let your mouth catch up with your brain and your audience digest what you have just said.  Don’t be afraid to have good long silences…… that way if at some stage during the presentation you forget what you were going to say and need to stop and think – it will come across as a natural element in your delivery style.

6) Adds immense impact – especially if it is a pregnant one.

We can add pauses mid-sentence, which can add a sense of suspense and a bit of variety.

For example, if you say something like “Fascinating fact  (big pause)  more car crashes happen (big pause) on Friday 13th than (big pause) on any other Friday”.   It adds a sense of drama, doesn’t it?  By the way, if you are wondering about the fact, it was one that Liberty Insurance shared with us this year.  Fascinating indeed!

For more tips on presenting and speaking in public, check out our Free Resources page!