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“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain
In our previous newsletter we looked at the Lock, Talk and Pause technique to help reduce your stress as a speaker and to keep the audience’s full attention. I would now like to share with you some tips on the powerful and indispensable technique of pausing.
We all speak at different speeds and there are no hard and fast rules about how quickly or slowly we should speak when we are presenting. However, when we analyse some of the most powerful speeches of all time, given by Martin Luther King, J F Kennedy or Steve Jobs for example *, what’s striking is how much pausing all these speakers use. Great presenters speak in groups of words, often as few as 3, 4 or 5, before integrating a pause. The key advantages of well-timed pausing are the following:
1. It gives the audience time to reflect and ingest the information the presenter is giving them.
If you pay attention to a comedian telling a joke, you’ll notice that the audience takes several seconds to laugh after the punch line has actually been given. This is because the brain needs time to process and absorb the information it’s just received.
2. It gives the speaker time to breathe and reflect.
When we’re nervous, we forget to breathe and this leads to all sorts of difficulties, such as blushing, sweating, dry mouth, loss of train of thought, etc. By integrating the pause into your speech, you give yourself time to breathe and to think about what you want to say next, making you not only look but also feel more comfortable.
3. It gives you credibility.
If you look comfortable and in control, the audience will also feel more comfortable, and as a result they’re more likely to empathise with you and adhere to your message.
Here’s an exercise to help you learn the pausing technique:
Listen to the beginning of Obama’s Presidential Acceptance Speech and notice where he pauses.
Here is the edited version of his speech, with the pauses indicated:
“If there / is anyone out there / who still doubts / that America is a place where / all things are possible / who still wonders / if the dream of our founders / is alive in our time, / who still questions / the power of our democracy, / tonight / is your answer.”
To practice this technique yourself, you can take your own presentation and mark the pauses in the same way as in the example above. Then read out loud your presentation, over and over again, paying particular attention to where you need to pause. Remember to slow down and speak as though you have plenty of time. This will leave the audience all the time they need to absorb what you’ve just said before picking up on the next piece of information you’re giving them.
If you’d like more information on how this is done, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Here are the videos of the talks mentioned above:
Martin Luther King – I Have A Dream Speech – August 28, 1963
President Kennedy 1961 Inaugural Address
Steve Jobs – iPhone Introduction in 2007
To help you to deal with problems you may be facing in your professional life and to find greater serenity, I offer the following coaching services:
Coaching/training in public speaking
You’ll learn not only the linguistic skills necessary to give a convincing presentation in English but you’ll also gain the confidence needed to address your audience directly, knowing that your message is being listened to and integrated.
Coaching to gain confidence in English
When previous English language training hasn’t given you the desired result, coaching sessions can be the solution to help you to gain confidence and to express yourself with ease in English, thereby reaching the level required of you professionally.
Coaching in English or in French to solve the problems you are facing in your professional life
Whether you’re in a transition period, facing too much stress or under pressure to reach certain objectives, the coaching process will help you to solve these problems, allowing you to see more clearly and to take the decisions that are right for you.
Internal or External Company Seminar: Speaking in Public with Assertiveness
A 2-day seminar in public speaking that provides you with the tools necessary to speak in public with confidence and conviction, taking your presentations to a higher level.