The power of the pause

The power of the pause

Sometimes when I'm coaching people, they deliver what would be a great presentation, except for the fact that they rattle through it without any punctuation whatsoever. It's such a shame, as regardless of what the presenter is saying, all the audience are thinking about is "I wonder how long they can keep going without taking a breath?" So, we're going to have a quick reminder of why a good pause here and there can really help.

It forces you to breathe!
As I've just mentioned, if you're speeding through your presentation without any pauses you definitely won't be doing any decent breathing. As I've covered in a previous blog, proper breathing is one of the very best ways to help to calm you down, therefore by forcing yourself to pause in the appropriate places, you'll give yourself the chance to have a deep breath or two, which really will help.

It gives you time to think
I'm sure we've all had the experience of being in an interview where the interviewer has asked a question that we have no idea about, but instead of pausing and waiting for the answer to come to us, we just set off on a merry jaunt around our mind, spilling forth a delightful monologue of utter nonsense to our poor unsuspecting interviewer, until we finally realise what the actual answer is. By then of course the damage is done! Similarly, this can happen when you're giving a presentation. Therefore, by being sure that you pause, this enables you to take just a second or two to gather your thoughts, and remember your next key point, which you should now be able to deliver in a delightfully clear and concise way.

It allows your audience time to process what you've said
Hopefully, if you've read a few of my blogs, you'll already be giving a decent presentation that is well thought out, and thus getting your audience really thinking. If you don't pause, it doesn't give them any opportunity to consider your key points, or crucially, think about how they impact them, and what they should do differently. This is particularly important whenever you've said something that you really want them to take on board. Say it, pause for a second or two, and only then move on.

It increases your gravitas
Think about someone you know who has great presence and gravitas - I'm willing to bet that they speak at a slightly slower pace than the average person, and that they always seem to know when to pause, and indeed do so frequently. People who pause at the appropriate moments always appear to be in control. The irony is that you might not feel in control at all, but if people think you are, then that's what matters!

It reduces your 'ums' and 'errs'
We all 'um' and 'err' when we're speaking, even the great speaker that is Obama 'errs' like a trooper when he hasn't got an autocue. However, if you feel an 'err' coming along, try to pause instead. It will seem like a long time to you, but in reality it will go by very quickly, and your audience won't even notice it. Not only will you get all the benefits we've already mentioned, but you will also reduce one of the things that could undermine your otherwise great presentation.

So, the next time you're giving a presentation, do make a concerted effort to pause more and see the effects for yourself. It's probably one of the easiest things we can possibly do, yet it gives us some of the greatest benefits.