You may have heard it referred to as the “dramatic pause” but let’s hope we can avoid bringing the drama. While you want to keep your audience attentive and mildly entertained, there is no need for the extreme.
There are sections within every speech where your ideas are presented. The basic framework sections include: your introduction, the problem to be solved, the solution, and then finally your conclusion. Of course your speech will have more specific areas depending on what you need to say.
Now think of the sections as moving from one paragraph to the next in a written document. There is always a natural pause between paragraphs, as the idea of each paragraph presents itself.
A natural pause will occur between each section, and if is ok. It may also come up if you transition from idea to idea within a section—again think about moving from spoken paragraph to spoken paragraph. It doesn’t need much. A pause is a second or two, a breath. Give yourself, and your audience time to move to the next concept.
Be careful not to overdo it. You have heard of “too much of a good thing” and that needs to be on your mind. Don’t drag your pace down with a lot of pauses. Let your flow happen. Too many pauses can be distracting for you as well as for your audience, and they might check out. Focus to keep the audience engaged, as well as yourself.
You are making a speech to share a message, it has a point. Use the pause to emphasize, and raise attention. For example, if you ask a rhetorical question, and let it hang for a moment, and let the listeners think for a second about what the answer may be. Play with the length the pause when you practice, to get the right feel to increase the impact on your audience.
And remember, don’t limit your pauses to just your words. If you tend to move when you speak, think about pausing your movement, right along with your voice, when you make a point. Stop your words, stop your body. It will grab their attention as they wait for the followup.
Pauses When Speaking: PUT IT TO THE TEST
Take a video of you practicing your speech. Set up the camera to see all of you, as your audience will. Make your presentation, sprinkling in the pauses where they feel natural, and find your flow.
Silence is acceptable. Short pauses when speaking separate thoughts, and come before and after phrases or words that need emphasis. Long pauses are very powerful and allow the listeners to consider what has been said.
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