8 reasons why pausing makes you a better presenter

Pausing in presentations

Pausing is one of the presentation skills we highly recommend, and can be the difference between a successful presentation and a less memorable one!

You have probably noticed that 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.

Those who are not so confident, tend not to pause as much.  You will find the 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.

If you are a person who notices yourself using a lot of “ands”, you might need to think about replacing some of them with full stops.

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

Martin Luther King’s, “I have a dream” speech averages at just 106 words per minute.  That’s on the lower end of the speed.  We would usually recommend to aim for about 2 words a second, which is 120 words a minute.  If you are in radio or broadcasting, sometimes you would go up as far as 3 words a second, 180 words in a minute.  Remember, this is an average, so it allows you time to speed up, to slow down and put in those really important pauses.

When we write we use commas, semi-colons, full stops and 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 8 of them:


1.  Confidence

Pausing makes you sound confident, and look like you are completely in control.  It takes a certain amount of confidence to stand or sit, in front of a group of people and say absolutely nothing, or to look directly into a camera and say nothing.

When we are presenting in a room full of people and we say nothing, they know that we are still with them because they can see us!  In the virtual world, however, you need to be a little bit more careful in that, if you pause and stay still, the audience may think that you have dropped off the call.  We would recommend that if you pause, you should make a body gesture or even a facial expression that lets the audience know that you are still there.


2.  Reduces filler words

When you pause, it reduces those filler words!  It’s easy for us to say to you, instead of using the filler word, just pause – but it’s not really that simple, especially when you have not been used to pausing.

So, one tip for you is to actually let your lips lightly touch together when you pause.  This will prevent those dreadful filler words from slipping out of nowhere.

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


3.  Enables your audience digest what you have said

When you pause, it allows the listener to digest what you have said.  This is really important when you are delivering technical or figure heavy material.

Remember that even though your audience may be somewhat familiar with what you are talking about, they have never heard these exact sentences or word combinations before.  Drip feed your sentences, and your audience have a better chance of absorbing your message.


4.  Allows your mind catch up with your mouth and vice versa

Have you ever had the experience of your mind being way ahead of your mouth?  You have actually had to ask yourself, “did I think that, or did I say that?”

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.

A big benefit of pausing is that it allows your mind to catch up with your mouth, and vice versa.  Give your mind a chance – pause!


5.  Gives you time to formulate an answer to a question

Pausing can help you to come out with more coherent answers to questions.

If you pause, before answering the question, it allows you to very quickly formulate the best response.

Sometimes people feel they need to dive straight in with the answer, but if you are doing that, it’s sending out a signal that you are not really taking on board the question and giving the best answer.

Always pause before every question you answer.

The beauty of this is, if somebody throws you a curve ball (and 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.


6.  Adds impact – particularly pregnant ones

Pausing adds immense impact. You know that.

In particular though, pregnant pausing can really add massive impact.  If you have not come across that term before, a pregnant pause is a pause in a place where you wouldn’t normally have a pause that flags that something significant is coming.

Let me give you an example:

“Fascinating fact! (big pause), more car crashes happen (big pause) on Friday the 13th than (big pause) on any other Friday.”

That fact is true by the way, we heard it from attendees on a program of ours who were from an insurance company!

In the above example, by saying, “Fascinating fact,” it tees you up for, Ooh, something interesting is coming.

Try it yourself, use pregnant pauses and see if it would give you immense impact.


7.  Helps eliminate gaffes

Pausing can almost eliminate gaffes, obviously sometimes there is the odd one that can happen to us.

A gaffe by definition is where you say something that is embarrassing to you as a speaker for having said it, and also it could cause offense to others listening.

If you are being cautious, pausing before every time you open your mouth, it is less likely that you are going to have a gaffe.

I would be pretty sure that you are like me and have had them from time to time!  Pausing, will certainly reduce them.

There have been plenty of times when we have been working one-to-one with somebody who is speaking at a significant event.  In the last week alone, 2 different people speaking at different events, had gaffes while dry running their content with me.

They were comfortable with their content, and “in the flow”,  maybe not pausing as much as they should have been.  One person in particular, said something that they really should not have said and would have completely reduced their credibility with their intended audience.

My jaw dropped.

They stopped.  Looked at me and said “Oh, I’d never say that on the day!” To which I am thinking, “Well I hope not!”

What can really help you to reduce those gaffes, is to put in those pauses.


8.  More is Less!

When you pause you use less words.  We came across a saying many years ago, unfortunately we cannot remember who said it, but we love it!

“Half the words, double the impact.”

You’ve probably heard that “less is more”… On Your Feet’s tagline is actually More is Less!

The more you speak, the less people are going to listen.

The more words you are babbling out, the less you are likely to put effort and impact in them.

Remember when you pause, you use less words and you definitely have more impact.


We hope you have found these 8 tips helpful.

If you want to find out more about how to add impact, whether in virtual presentations or in-person, check out our group presentation skills training for details of our next masterclass.