Pauses When Speaking – No Need To Avoid Silence

WRITTEN April 22, 2021 Author: Rich Atkins

Use silence to add to the effectiveness of a speech.

Dead air is not always “bad.” Consider it the sound of the audience thinking.

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.

Pause For Change

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.

Keep It Moving

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.

Emphasis: Making Your Point

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.

Wait a little while and then listen to the recording. Evaluate the overall vocal power of your message based on the list of characteristics above. Make note of what works in your favor, as well as what you want to change. If you need help with the change, ask.

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.

Click here for an interesting read on how our society has a fear of silence.


Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Other Resources On Pauses When Speaking

The Power of Silence: How to use Pauses Effectively in Public Speaking

Every Great Speaker Is a Fantastic Pauser — On Using Pauses and Silences in Public Speaking

Bring the Noise: Has Technology Made Us Scared of Silence?

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