Power to the Pause

Power to the Pause for Executive Presence

Imagine opening a book with no commas, no periods, no paragraph breaks.

Or better yet, read this:

Say youre speaking to a room full of tech savvy folks you could say our network is secure everyone in the audience regardless of how cursed by tech they are would have some understanding of what you mean however saying that also leaves up to the audience to interpret exactly what secure means lets try something more concrete imagine youre in a meeting discussing internal candidates for a project manager job all of you are cursed with the knowledge of what it takes to succeed so its tempting to just say shes organized and leave it at that instead think through the daily email load for a project manager and how important organization is

It’s hard to follow. There is too much information, and my eyes begin to glaze, just a bit. Do some of your presentations sound like this?

Pausing is a vital skill for audience engagement.

In fact, punctuation is to readers as pausing is to your listeners.

Whether you are in front of a crowd, sitting around a conference room table, or having a one-on-one phone call, visualize that what you are saying is the story you are telling. It needs punctuation, and it’s as easy as one, two, three.

When there should be a comma, pause for one second. When you see a period, pause for two seconds. When you see a new paragraph, pause for three seconds.

Try reading the same paragraph aloud, with punctuation:

Say you’re speaking to a room full of tech savvy folks. You could say, “Our network is secure.” Everyone in the audience – regardless of how cursed by tech they are – would have some understanding of what you mean.

However, saying that also leaves up to the audience to interpret exactly what “secure” means. Let’s try something more concrete.

Imagine you’re in a meeting discussing internal candidates for a project manager job. All of you are “cursed” with the knowledge of what it takes to succeed, so it’s tempting to just say “she’s organized,” and leave it at that. Instead, think through the daily email load for a project manager and how important organization is.

Much better, right?

Notice the speakers who really draw the audience in. The ones who captivate the room. They all use an effective pause. When you pause, you will be less stressed and more influential.

Your audience loves pauses. No, really. They love pauses.

It allows time for them to absorb what you are saying. It gives them a chance to integrate the new information. Pausing is also effective because it helps to dramatize and add flavor to your story. It allows you to make a point, as if something were underlined or bolded.

Remember, your audience hasn’t heard your message before. [Pause] Give them a chance to hear it.

How can you integrate the pause without counting every comma and period?

  1. Start by enunciating each word more carefully. Think of this as pumping the brakes instead of coming to a complete stop.
  2. Breathe at the end of each paragraph. A deep breath. It doesn’t have to be audible, but take a full breath.
  3. Remember the disparity – each pause is not as long as you think. But it will make a difference.

Pausing is a vital skill for audience engagement.

 

4 comments on “Power to the Pause

  1. Dear Mr. Keith
    I am conducting a research on pausing in presentation (how to use pausing effectively in presentation)
    I am searching for some references and I’ve found that your article is amazing!
    In addition, do yu have any ideas about what are wrong pauses? what are right?