When Speaking, Sometimes It’s What You Don’t Say That Matters Most

Sometimes saying nothing can help boost the impact of what you are saying
Sometimes saying nothing can help boost the impact of what you are saying
Image Credit: JulieFaith

As people who give speeches and who know about the importance of public speaking, you wouldn’t think that we’d all be scared of the same thing, but by in large we are. It turns out that people who talk a lot are more often than not scared of the same thing: silence. We just hate it when nobody is talking. If someone else is not going to speak up, then we’ll jump right in and start to fill the silence. Although understandable, perhaps a difference approach would serve us better…

Silence Helps You To Focus

One thing that a lot of speakers don’t realize is that silence is a powerful tool that we can put to work just about anywhere in our speech. One of the most effective places to use a pause is at the start of a speech. All too often, we are so focused on what we want to say that when we take the stage, we race to the microphone, grab it, and instantly start our speech. The problem with doing this is that our audience might not be ready for us to start. A much better way of starting your next speech would be to take the stage and then pause, say nothing. The room will go quiet while everyone stops what they are doing and starts to stare at you – what’s wrong? Once you have their attention, then start your speech and you’ll have made contact with everyone in your audience before your speech even stated.

Every speech that we give has several points that we feel are the most important points. These are what we want our audience to remember when our speech is over. What this means for us is that we’d like to find a way to draw our audience’s attention to these specific parts of our speech. A simple way to go about doing this is to pause while you are giving your speech. The stop will cause your audience to suddenly focus on you. If their attention has been drifting, then it will suddenly be brought back to focus on you. After you’ve paused, now start to discuss the important point and this is what your audience will remember.

Giving a speech can be a nerve wracking event. Even if you feel fairly confident when you give a speech, if you find yourself standing in front of a room of people that is much larger than you are used to, it can cause your stomach to start to do some flip flops. In order to take control of the situation, you need to remember that you are in charge of your speech. This means that at an appropriate point in your speech you can just stop, take a moment and look at your audience, and then continue on. What you’ll discover is that this brief period of time is what it takes to allow you to regain your composure, remind yourself that you are doing a good job, and then continue with your speech.

Silence Helps Your Audience To Think Better

In many of the speeches that we give, we end up proposing a new idea to our audience. We want them to either do or at least allow us to do something that is not currently being done. These are big ideas and they may take a while for our audience to process our request. After you have presented your new idea, this is a great time for you to be quiet. Don’t say anything. Allow your audience to process your new idea. This is a much better idea than continuing to talk and doing something silly like apologizing for your new idea.

When you are trying to make important points in your speech, you want your audience to take the time to both listen and understand what you are saying. Sure, you could yell at them, but that probably won’t do the trick. Instead, a much better approach is to insert a pause into your speech. The silence will capture your audience’s attention and will cause them to start to listen to the next words that will be coming out of your mouth. You can use pauses to force your audience to listen to what you have to say.

One of the most important uses of a pause during a speech has to do with questions. Since we’re giving a speech, we don’t really have a chance to have a back-and-forth discussion with our audience. In order to simulate how this would go during the delivery of a speech, we can use a pause after we’ve asked our audience a question. This pause will give our audience a chance to ponder our question and then come up with their reply to it.

What All Of This Means For You

Speakers often love to hear themselves talking. What this means is that we don’t like it when nobody is speaking. All too often when we encounter silence, we feel a need to try to fill it with our words. A better approach in order to deliver the full benefits of public speaking is to realize that silence comes with its own unique set of powers.

If we want to grab our audience’s attention before we start to give a speech, then we can start our next speech with a pause. If the speech that we are giving has important points in it, then we can place a pause after each of these points so that we can draw our audience’s attention to them. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel nervous, you can use pauses to gather your wits and make sure that you feel comfortable about what you are going to be saying next. When we present new ideas to our audience, we need to take time and pause after the new big idea to give everyone time to process it. If we want to ask our audience questions, we need to insert pauses after we ask a question so that our audience can create their own answers.

As simple as it may sound, a pause can be a very important tool that you can use in the next speech that you give. Knowing where to insert the pause is the first step in getting the most out of this tool. You also have to make sure that you understand what you want your audience to do when you use a pause. The next time that you are giving a speech, make sure to take some time out!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to put too many pauses into a speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

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