BIG Presentation Secret No.8: Use the power of the pause


So what’s this week’s secret?

The greatest speakers understand the power of silence in their BIG Presentations.

However, the majority of speakers fear silence. After all, they’ve been asked to speak. Isn’t pausing for too long being a disobedient BIG presenter?

No. (Insert long pause here)

So how do we use this secret?

Why is pausing so powerful?

Pausing after we’ve delivered a key line, question or statement in our BIG Presentation is powerful as it gives our audience time to think.

A pause DEMANDS that our audience contemplate what we have just said. Their minds acknowledge the pause and review the previous statement for its significance. There is then a more conscious acknowledgement of the point we have just made (in case they missed it the first time!).

Why is pausing so hard?

Pausing during a BIG Presentation is hard for several reasons.

First up, when we’re presenting we have a lot of adrenaline pumping around our bodies. That adrenaline urges us to speak quickly and often. Adrenaline isn’t a big fan of pausing!

We’re also taught from a young age that silence in social situations is a bad thing. The term ‘awkward silence’ is commonly used and so a pause when a large audience is staring expectantly at us is not something we naturally associate with positive outcomes.

However, we should not forget that most religions and acts of relaxation all encourage silence as a way to clear the mind and focus on specific ideas and thoughts. Focusing on our specific ideas and thoughts is exactly what we want our audience to do, so for us as speakers, silence is golden.

When should we use pauses?

If we paused for long periods after every sentence, our audience would soon get frustrated and our pauses would lack impact.

Pauses should be used after key statements (generally no more than one per minute of speaking) or rhetorical questions. With a rhetorical question, you should always allow a pause long enough for the audience if they were to answer the question verbally. This way you can be sure that they have had time to answer the question in their own heads!

Further reading


Next week’s secret…

Next week is our 9th BIG Presentation secret and it’s got a (slight!) fashion focus!

Well, it’s all about how you look on stage, and how you this can influence the outcome of your next BIG Presentation. Have a think about the types of BIG presentations you’d expect to hear from the following people:

a.) A person wearing jeans and t-shirt
b.) A person that is wearing the same clothes as you wear in your office
c.) A person wearing a tie
d.) A person not wearing a tie.