Posted by: George E Burney | May 10, 2012

Public Speaking – How To Use The Pause That Refreshes

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Silence is one of the best techniques in public speaking. Of course, I’m referring to appropriate pausing while giving a discourse.

Pausing before beginning to speak allows the audience to settle down and to give attention to your opening words. This also allows you to breathe deeply and to look at the audience.

As a public speaker, you have a deadly enemy – monotony. If your presentation is sufficiently monotonous, it will literally put some in your audience to sleep. The antidote is change, and appropriate pauses represent change.

As you speak, you naturally use short pauses to separate sentences and phrases, just as you use commas and periods when writing. The audience is accustomed to those pauses, so while they promote understanding, they do little to introduce variety or change.

Longer pauses, however, are different. Use them to introduce a main point, or a significant change in direction. To illustrate, if your were driving and the road veered to the right slightly, you might slow down a bit. On the other hand, if you were making a right turn at an intersection, you would reduce your speed even more, since you are completely changing direction.

Likewise, when “changing direction” in your lecture, a longer pause is called for. This does several things: It signals that your discussion of the previous point is over, and that an entirely separate point will now be covered. It also creates anticipation for what follows, and so prepares your audience to isolate and note the important point which you next introduce.

Long pauses are also particularly effective after you’ve asked a rhetorical question. Don’t be in a hurry to move on to your next statement. Allow the audience time to think of their answer to your question. This helps them to arrive at the same conclusion you’re leading to, and what’s more, to accept its validity because they reached that conclusion in their own minds!

Finally, a long pause is markedly different from the short pauses the audience has become accustomed to. As a result, even the drowsy members of the audience will sense that something different is taking place, and their ears may perk up.

So, in a sense, we could say that the long pause is the pause that refreshes.

Copyright © 2012 by George Burney and betterpublicspeaking


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