Secret #6 of star presenters: 3 great benefits of pausing (by Keith Bailey of @DeckerComm)

pauseRight now, why not take a moment to vividly imagine achieving these 3 outcomes whenever you present?

  • Feeling relaxed.
  • Influencing people more.
  • Delighting your audience.

Those 3 are the Holy Grail of public speaking! No doubt you’d be glad to achieve any 1 of them, so to get all 3 would be bliss.

Well according to Keith Bailey of Decker Communications, you can achieve all 3 of those outcomes simply by pausing effectively.

In fact, in a quote of just 15 words, Keith encapsulates not only those 3 outcomes but also how simply (though not easily) you can achieve them:

“When you pause, you will be less stressed and
more influential. Your audience loves pauses.”

That’s the goal alright, but it’s often foiled of course by stress, which comes on for at least 3 reasons:

  • You’re mostly the one talking, which singles you out as the leader.
  • Your audience is all facing you, and judging you and your words!
  • It’s often hard to tell whether they like what you’re saying.

No wonder you likely feel 2 related sensations:

  • nerves
  • acute focus on yourself.

That’s why – if you’re like most speakers (me included) – currently you don’t pause often enough or long enough. And even if you try pauses, it’s likely they’re too short, because nervousness distorts your sense of time. (With all eyes fixed on you, pauses seem much longer to you than they really are.)

So to improve your pauses, what can you do? Try these 4 tips for a start:

  • Decide how often and how long to pause
    Keith Bailey suggests a great way to insert frequent, effective pauses in your talks.
  • Do at least one “dress rehearsal”
    • Speak out loud.
    • To mimic eye contact, look around the room (fixing your gaze for several seconds at a time).
    • Move around and gesture as if for real.
    • Practise pausing in sync with your eye contact and with moving, as well as at other times.
    • If possible, also use the same equipment and venue as you will on the day.

  • Video your rehearsals (and your talks if you can)
    There’s no better feedback than seeing exactly how long your pauses truly are.
  • Get feedback from good speakers
    • Choose people you admire and trust.
    • Let them know in advance what you’d like feedback on.
    • Ask specifically about how you can improve your pauses.

Lastly, you might also want to try these 6 tips to boost your confidence.

Over to you

  • What other tips or benefits to do with pausing can you share?
  • I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.

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8 thoughts on “Secret #6 of star presenters: 3 great benefits of pausing (by Keith Bailey of @DeckerComm)

  1. I remember once in a contest I went totally blank and needed a few seconds to regain my place. I looked down at the desk and drew a circle on the desk with my finger…seemed like an eternity but I found my place and began to speak again. It worked so good I kept the body language for further speeches and was reminded again how powerful pauses are in a speech. It was edgy.

    • What a great example! Thanks for sharing your story, Celeste.

      As I wrote in this post, ensuring you pause long enough to be effective is key, so doing a physical act like making a circle with your finger could be a good way to judge the passage of time.

      I’d tend not to look at the desk while pausing, though, because that could break the link with the audience that you had through eye contact.

      Pausing while looking at people intrigues them about what you’re thinking, and about what you’ll say next, and intrigue powerfully focuses attention.

  2. Oh yeah, the pause! It is vitally important. The pre-pause, the post-pause, the 3 second pause (emphasis), the 8 second pause (what does it mean for me). The biggest single differentiator between great speakers and beginners is the use of pause😉

    • Thanks Conor, it’s interesting to hear you mention an 8-second pause. For new speakers, that should put in perspective just how long effective pauses are. We’re not talking about fleeting fractions of a second here! (And there’s nothing like video to be able to see just how long your pauses really are.)

      Thanks again for joining the conversation.

  3. Another great blog post on one of my favourite topics (the pause). I love your “1-2-3” post as well; the two combined give great tips on pausing. I think I’ve mentioned it before, for new speakers a good pause is one where the silence starts to get awkward. Not as scientific as some of your tips that you’ve highlighted.🙂

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