Use A Pause To Make Your Next Speech Even Better

A pause can be a powerful tool during a speech
A pause can be a powerful tool during a speech
Image Credit: JulieFaith

Speakers are always looking for ways to make their next speech even better. We’ll read books, watch videos, and ask friends for advice. Our ultimate goal is always to find a way to keep our audience’s attention on us and what we are saying. What’s interesting about all of this is that it turns out that doing so may be easier than any of us have realized. In order to keep our audience’s attention all we have do during our next speech is pause.

The Power Of Silence

All too often, speakers discover that they are afraid of silence. The good news is that they are not alone. Many people are uncomfortable with silence during a speech and want to fill it with noise, any sort of noise. However, what we need to realize is that silence can be a powerful device in your speaking toolbox. The best orators have long understood the power of simply not saying anything. A long time ago, Cicero, the Roman philosopher and statesman said “Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.” If you can employ the tool of silence then it can offer you many benefits. What’s even better is that it can be incorporated into your speeches, negotiations and conversations.

How To Use Silence When You Talk

Speakers need to understand that the benefits of silence can begin before we even utter a word. What we would like do is to gain our audience’s attention before we begin a speech. When there is an extended silence before a speech starts, people in the audience will look up, possibly thinking that something is wrong. When the speaker makes eye contact, we can see a look of recognition, perhaps even curiosity from listeners. This can make you feel engaged with them and makes the speech that much more enjoyable for you to deliver. Silence can provide an opportunity for speakers to focus on their audience, their presentation or their own presence. Taking a momentary pause before talking, or even during a speech, can help you to stay calm and channel any of your anxiety into energy. It can also help draw an audience’s attention and provide them with time to think about or react to what you just said.

We also need to understand that we can use silence as a negotiation tactic. Many people start to feel uncomfortable with silence and will talk to break the tension, and end up saying too much or backtracking from what they want. You don’t want to answer for the other negotiator if he’s taking his time responding: you need to give him time to reflect and wait to hear what he has to say. A critical time to pause during negotiations comes immediately after you make your pitch. You don’t want to undermine yourself by filling the silence with non-essential talk or, worse, providing a substitute to what you just proposed. By becoming comfortable with staying silent, you can affirm what you just said, and you can focus on how the other side is reacting.

Silence and active listening are both instrumental during professional and personal conversations that speakers engage in. We need to recognize that silence has benefits beyond speeches and we need to incorporate it into our work life. We can use silence to develop better relationships with our team members. At work, people can share very personal things with us, which is caused by us shutting our mouth and opening our ears. Being silent after you ask a question also allows the listener time to formulate the most effective answer. If you are on the receiving end of a question, give yourself time to consider what the best answer might be instead of immediately replying with an answer. Those extra seconds might mean the difference between a simply adequate response and one that impresses people.

What All Of This Means For You

All speakers want to be able to get their audience to pay attention to what they are saying. We are always looking for ways to make our next speech more effective in capturing and holding our audience’s attention. It turns out that there is a simple addition to any speech that we can use that will help us to be successful. If we understand how to become silent while we are speaking, then we will have discovered a way to get our next audience to pay attention to us.

Many speakers fear having any periods of silence during their speech. If they encounter a silent period, they tend to try to fill it with words. Silence can be a powerful tool in a speech and it can start to work even before we start our speech. Silence can be an effective tool when we are engaged in a negotiation. We simply have to train ourselves to not try to fill periods of silence after we have made a proposal. During conversations we can use silence to get the person that we’re talking with to open up and share more with us.

The next time you give a speech, try adding a brief silence to your speech after being introduced and before you begin speaking. Alternatively plan to inject some pauses into the body of your speech. If you find yourself negotiating an agreement, wait before responding to the other side. And during any business or personal conversations, make sure that you pay attention to how engaged you are and try to focus on others while they are talking. The more you can use your silence as a tool, the more comfortable you will become with it.

– 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 have too much silence in 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 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!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every time that we give a speech, we want to find a way to both grab and hold on to our audience’s attention. In order to successfully do this, we need to be able to create a speech that has a good structure. Our speech has to capture our audience’s attention from the start and then hold on to it throughout the speech. If we want to be able to do this, then we’re going to have to learn how to build a good speech.