You can define the best speeches as much by the pauses as the spoken words. As much by the gaps as by the sentences they separate. Because they recognise the value of the pause, all the most effective speakers strive to put the same care and attention into their pauses as they do their scripts. In this public speaking tip we look at how to use pauses in a speech.
There are some good reasons why knowing how to use pauses in a speech will boost your public speaking. Here are five:
Set the pace. When you set the right pace in your speech your audience has a good chance to keep up, actively listen and understand you. The chance to really understand. When you speak more quickly you increase the likelihood of your audience missing something or not understanding something. You know the signs: a scratch of heads, furrowed brows and an exchange of glances. It’s down to pace. Use effective pauses in your speech to slow down the pace and increase your audience’s understanding.
Breathing. When your breathing is out of control your speech pattern also goes out of control. It’s mainly caused by nerves. But it’s equally likely when you are not fully prepared or familiar with your speech. Short, sharp breaths don’t lend themselves to confident speaking. Sentences become muddled. Pauses are non-existent or they occur in the wrong place. Your aim is to balance the needs to breathe and speak. Strike the right balance and your speech pauses should be as eloquent as your words.
Impact. Put the right emphasis on a word and it’s instantly noted by your audience. It’s important. And when you leave a pause after making that point it’s also noted by your audience. It’s doubly important. Pauses add extra emphasis to your speech. They are equal to all your emphasis, intonation and volume. Used properly they will add weight, gravitas and value to your spoken word.
Eye contact. When you look your audience in the eye you intend to get them engaged with your speech; engaged in a one to one dialogue. And when you combine this with a good pause you add extra emphasis to each of the points you make. Your eye contact and pause technique reinforces the all important one to one relationship that you want with your audience.
Rhetorical questions. Ask a question of your audience and you look for their engagement. Ask a question and pause…and you have their engagement. They can’t and won’t overlook your question. Your pause brings their focus straight to your question. Answer your question. Pause…and then continue.
Effective public speeches full of rhetorical device, intonation and structure are weakened without the all-important pause. Apply a solid pausing technique to your speeches and you can expect to become a more effective speaker.
“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.”
Sir Ralph Richardson